High Cholesterol: Exercise for a Healthy Heart
Some of the benefits of heart-healthy exercise are reducing the risk factors for heart disease and lowering cholesterol. A sedentary (inactive) lifestyle is one of the top risk factors for heart disease. Fortunately, it's a risk factor that you can do something about. Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, has many benefits, including lowering cholesterol. It can also:
- Strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system
- Improve your circulation and help your body use oxygen better
- Increase your HDL or "good" cholesterol
- Increase energy levels so you can do more activities without becoming tired or short of breath
- Increase endurance and improve muscle tone and strength, balance and joint flexibility, and bone strength
- Help reduce body fat and help you reach a healthy weight
- Help reduce stress, tension, anxiety and depression
- Boost self-image and self-esteem
- Improve sleep
- Make you feel more relaxed and rested
- Make you look fit and feel healthy
How Do I Get Started?
Always check with your doctor first before starting an exercise program. Your doctor can help you find a program that matches your level of fitness and physical condition. Here are some questions to ask:
- How much exercise can I do each day?
- How often can I exercise each week?
- What type of exercise should I do?
- What type of activities should I avoid?
- Should I take my medication(s) at a certain time around my exercise schedule?
- Do I have to take my pulse while exercising?
What Type of Exercise Is Best?
Exercise can be divided into three basic types:
or the slow lengthening of the muscles. Regular stretching also increases your range of motion and flexibility, but many exercise experts recommend against “static” stretching before other types of exercise. Instead they recommend “dynamic” stretching, which involves movement and low impact exercises before engaging in more intense activity.
Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise is steady physical activity using large muscle groups. This type of exercise strengthens the heart and lungs and improves the body's ability to use oxygen. Aerobic exercise has the most benefits for your heart. Over time, aerobic exercise can help decrease your heart rate and blood pressure and improve your breathing. Aerobic exercises include: walking, jogging, jumping rope, bicycling (stationary or outdoor), cross-country skiing, skating, rowing, high or low-impact aerobics, swimming and water aerobics.
Strengthening exercises are repeated muscle contractions (tightening) until the muscle becomes tired by weight lifting or exercises that use one’s own body weight – such as push-ups or pull-ups.
How Often Should I Exercise?
In general, to achieve maximum benefits, you should gradually work up to an aerobic session lasting at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Exercising at least every other day will help you keep a regular aerobic exercise schedule.