Maintain Fitness to Delay Onset of High Cholesterol

by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Professional

Being regularly active delayed age-related cholesterol increases in men by up to 15-years according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Previous research indicates high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. Being regularly active can reduce this risk. Being physically fit reduces arterial build-up by lowering LDL cholesterol levels while increasing HDL cholesterol. Physical activity also lowers other risk factors for atherosclerosis and blood clots, such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and stress.

Researchers for this particular study analyzed data from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, TX. This long term study took place from 1970 to 2006 and included 11,418 men between the ages of 20 to 90 years-old. The study began with each participant completing a treadmill exercise test to determine baseline aerobic fitness. Data measured also included total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and HDL cholesterol.

Participants with low aerobic fitness were at greater risk of having high cholesterol in their early 30s, while those with higher fitness levels did not experience high cholesterol until their 40s.

To be clear, this study looked at aerobic exercise. Strength training (lifting weights) is not a form of aerobic exercise.

The “highly fit” men in this study were identified as individuals physically active for 150 minutes per week of moderate level activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous level activity.

This is not an unreasonable level of activity. Anyone can meet these goals and see the same benefits. This is equivalent to taking a brisk walk every day for just over 20 minutes or 30 minutes 5 days a week.

Physical activity plays a significant role in heart health and should be a part of your treatment plan. Discuss with your doctor. If you are currently inactive you will want to gradually increase your level of activity to the goal fitness level.

Maintaining fitness levels does not just delay cholesterol increases, but also impacts diabetes and blood pressure.

So how exactly can we get the aerobic exercise we need to maintain optimal health? Some examples of common aerobic exercises are:

  • Running

  • Biking

  • Brisk walking

  • Hiking

  • Swimming

  • Soccer

  • Tennis

  • Basketball

If you are working to lower cholesterol levels, sign up for the free e-course How to Lower Cholesterol in 8 Simple Steps at

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN
Meet Our Writer
Lisa Nelson, RD, LN

Lisa Nelson RD, a registered dietitian since 1999, provides step-by-step guidance to lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure, so you can live life and enjoy your family for years to come. Lisa's passion for health comes from her own family history of heart disease, so she doesn't dispense trendy treatments; Lisa practices what she teaches in her own daily life. Because her own health is the foundation of her expertise, you can trust that Lisa will make it truly possible for you to see dramatic changes in your health, without unrealistic fads or impossibly difficult techniques.