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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 some.

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%."

Getting Started

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 cholesterol-lowering medications.

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.

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Reviewed on November 14, 2008

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240+

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Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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