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Bobby Brown
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Effective Exercises for High Cholesterol

Published on 4/16/2018
For additional information  Click Here

Effective Exercises for High Cholesterol

Physical activity can lower bad cholesterol (LDL), raise good cholesterol (HDL), and lower the risk for heart disease in adults, according to a study published in the journal Atherosclerosis in December 2015. That makes exercise a key element in an overall treatment plan that also includes diet and possibly medication..

How Exercise Lowers Cholesterol

Physical activity is effective at lowering bad cholesterol levels because exercising muscles requires energy, explains Karol Watson, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine and cardiology, co-director of the UCLA Program in Preventive Cardiology, and director of the UCLA Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Health Program. “Sugar (glucose) is the muscle’s preferred energy source, but once the glucose is depleted, it will start burning fat for energy,” she explains. And when fat is used for energy, it can lower LDL and triglycerides, another fat found in the bloodstream and in food. If you have high cholesterol, try these exercises to get your numbers under control:

Brisk walking is great for lowering cholesterol, according to the American Heart Association, and most anyone can do it. All you need is a pair of good sneakers. Walking is an aerobic exercise, which improves your use of oxygen by strengthening your heart and lungs. “All exercises that expend energy will lower cholesterol,” Watson says. “Because aerobic exercises expend the most energy, they’ll usually lower cholesterol most.” In fact, brisk walking was found to be as effective at lowering cholesterol as running, according to a study in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology in May 2013.


Like walking, running is aerobic exercise. Running helps lower your cholesterol by increasing your heart rate. To get the most out of your running, or any exercise, you need to raise your heart rate. “You don’t want it pounding in your chest, but beating faster,” Levine says. You also want to accelerate your breathing. “You want it a little deeper and faster, but not so you’re hyperventilating,” Levine advises. “If you can’t carry on a conversation while you’re exercising, you’re working too hard.”

Research has shown that riding a bicycle is a safe and effective aerobic exercise for burning calories and lowering bad cholesterol — and one of the main benefits of cycling is that it can become part of your daily routine without disrupting your schedule. Indeed, if you can, experts recommend riding your bicycle to work or while running errands, as opposed to driving or taking public transportation. However, if you don’t feel comfortable riding a bike on the street, a brisk ride on a stationary bike will do the trick as well. Levine advises starting slowly, taking short rides on flat terrain (or at a low incline setting on a stationary bike). Then, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise five days a week, Levine says. Once you’re conditioned, step it up to 45 to 60 minutes on most days, he suggests.

Swimming, which is also aerobic exercise, can be a good choice for your cholesterol-lowering fitness program. Swimming is easy on the joints and a good physical activity if you have orthopedic issues as well, Levine says. A half-hour of swimming laps will burn about 240 calories, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). You can also use swimming as high-intensity exercise to help with weight maintenance, says Brian Coyne, MEd, clinical operations supervisor in the cardiac diagnostic unit at Duke University Health System.

Weight Lifting
Besides aerobic activities, your exercise program should include strength training, too. Strength training helps build muscle — and muscle increases your calorie burn at rest, notes the National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability. Options include weight lifting and toning exercises. In one study, men who strength-trained saw improvements related to high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol, compared with men who did not strength-train, regardless of their weight. The findings appeared in the Journal of Applied Physiology in October 2013. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends doing strength-training exercises at least two days a week, with eight to 12 repetitions of eight to 10 exercises targeting all major muscle groups.

Everyday Activities
You don’t have to run a marathon or even a 5K to benefit your cholesterol levels — you simply have to get your heart pumping. “It can be as easy as taking the dog for a 30-minute walk each day,” says Coyne, president of the Clinical Exercise Physiology Association. Activities such as gardening and housework can be good ways to start, the NHLBI says. Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program to lower your cholesterol, especially if you’ve been sedentary, Levine says. And whatever exercise you choose, make sure it’s one you enjoy so you stick with it. As Coyne says, “it’s about doing something and continuing with it.”

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