Exercise To Lower Cholesterol
How Much Exercise Does It Take To Lower Cholesterol? continued...
The people who exercised vigorously also raised their levels of high-density
lipoprotein (HDL) -- the "good" kind of lipoprotein that actually helps clear
cholesterol from the blood. "We found it requires a good amount of high
intensity exercise to significantly change HDL," saysWilliam Kraus, MD, an
assistant professor of medicine at Duke and the lead author on the study. "Just
walking is not enough."
According to Kraus's findings, however, even though moderate exercise was
not as effective in reducing LDL or increasing HDL, it did keep
cholesterol levels from rising.
Bottom line? Some exercise is better than none; more exercise is better than
How Much Will It Help?
Just how much of an effect exercise has on cholesterol is also a matter of
debate. "We've found that the people who benefit the most are those who had the
worst diet and exercise habits to begin with," says Roger Blumenthal, MD,
director of the Ciccarone Preventive Cardiology Center at Johns Hopkins
University. "Some of those people reduce their LDL by 10-15% and increase their
HDL by 20%."
If you haven't been exercising regularly already, it's important to start
slowly. Be sure to check in with your doctor, so that he or she can evaluate
your current cardiovascular health. This could mean blood tests or a
treadmill test to see how your heart reacts when you exercise.)
Once you're cleared to begin working out, follow these guidelines:
- Choose a form of exercise you can do for 10-20 minutes at a time, with at
least moderate intensity, such as walking, biking, swimming, jogging, or using
an exercise machine at low speed).
- Know that while the intensity may be moderate, the "exercise volume," which
means the amount of time you spend exercising, has to be pretty high. The
American Heart Association recommends working up to 30 minutes of physical
activity per day, or 60 minutes per day if you're also trying to lose weight.
Remember: you can get your exercise in 10 minutes increments if need be, as
long as it adds up to 30 minutes by the end of the day.
- Find an activity you love, whether it's walking your dog, playing tag with
your kids, swimming laps at a pool, or bicycling through your community.
Finding a buddy to exercise with can be helpful, too, both for moral support
and to help make exercise more enjoyable.
- Even better, find several activities you love, so you can vary your
routine. This helps you exercise more than one set of muscles, as well as
enjoying different work-out environments.
Of course, exercise alone won't guarantee a low cholesterol level. Genetics,
weight, age, gender, and diet all contribute to an individual's
cholesterol profile. The most effective way to ensure a healthy
cholesterol level is to modify your diet and, if need be, take
But exercise has many advantages beyond lowering cholesterol. Exercise has
been shown to keep bones strong, reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, stroke,
and obesity, and to improve mood. "Even if the improvements in your cholesterol
profile are modest, there are many, many other benefits," says Blumenthal.