As you know exercise is a very important part of a healthy lifestyle. In fact, research indicates regular exercise can effectively lower cholesterol in conjunction with a healthy diet.
So, why is exercise so beneficial in lowering cholesterol?
- Exercise can help you lose , or maintain weight. Being overweight tends to increase the amount of LDL cholesterol in your blood, so losing weight will be beneficial.
- Exercise is thought to stimulate enzymes that help move LDL from the blood to the liver to be converted into bile, or excreted.
- Exercise is also thought to increase the size of the protein particles which carry cholesterol through the blood. Some of those particles are small and dense; some are big and fluffy. The smaller particles are more dangerous, therefore increasing the size may be beneficial.
How much exercise is needed to lower cholesterol?
Exactly how much exercise is needed to lower cholesterol is a matter of some debate.
In general, a minimum of 30 minutes most days of the week is recommended, however if you can do more that would be preferable.
A 2002 study lead by William Kraus et al found that more intense exercise is actually better than moderate exercise for lowering cholesterol.
Researchers found that those who got moderate exercise (the equivalent of 12 miles of walking or jogging per week) did lower their LDL level a little. However, those who did more vigorous exercise (the equivalent of 20 miles of jogging a week) lowered their cholesterol levels more.
Another benefit was that participants who exercised vigorously also raised their levels of HDL cholesterol.
The study does point out that although moderate exercise was not as effective in reducing LDL or increasing HDL, it was effective in keeping cholesterol levels from rising.
If you don't work out at present, aim for around 15 minutes to begin with, and then build up gradually from there.
For maximum benefit a good long-term aim would be 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise.
So, what exercises are suitable?
Well, any movement is better than none, but some of the best exercises include brisk walking, hill climbing, cycling, swimming, aerobics classes, and jogging/running.
If motivation is a problem for you, try to find an activity you really enjoy, and get a friend involved too for extra support and encouragement.
If you haven't been exercising regularly already, it's important to check with your doctor first, so that your current cardiovascular health can be evaluated.
Unfortunately, exercise alone cannot guarantee improved cholesterol levels - genetics, weight, age, gender, and diet are all contributing factors.
Therefore, the most effective way to make sure your cholesterol levels are good is to follow a healthy lifestyle overall, including eating well, exercising, stopping smoking, and having regular GP checkups.