Exercise and Cholesterol: How Much Is Enough?
Try to work out at a moderate intensity. That means breathing more heavily than usual, but not so much that you can’t have a conversation.
Your target heart rate should be in the 50% to 80% zone, which means about 50-80 percent of your maximum heart rate. For a 40-year-old, that would be a target heart rate between 90-144 bpm.
“There is some evidence that more intense or vigorous workouts may have more of an effect on raising HDL levels,” Higgins says. So running a 10-minute mile is better than a 12-minute pace for boosting good cholesterol.
But for lowering LDL cholesterol, the amount of time you spend exercising may be more important than how intense your workout is, Higgins says.
You can follow this simple rule: “The more calories that are burned, the greater the reduction in LDL and increase in HDL cholesterol,” Higgins says.
Changes You’ll See
Your LDL and HDL levels will improve.
Exercise can lower your LDL cholesterol up to 15% and raise your HDL level up to 20%.
You’ll see a difference after a few months.
You’ll see changes in your LDL level after just 3-6 months of exercising regularly. It takes longer to see a difference in HDL. Most studies show it takes an average of 9 months, Higgins says.
If you do high-intensity training, you may see improvements in HDL levels sooner, possibly in as little as 8 weeks, Higgins says.
Even though you’re working out, you don’t get a free pass to eat poorly. “Avoid the all-too-common misconception that, ‘Because I worked out today, I can eat whatever I want,’” Langevin says. You may wish it was true, “but alas, it isn't!”
Remember: Exercise plus a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet is better than either one alone.