Get Active to Lower Triglycerides & Cholesterol

Medically Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on February 25, 2014
From the WebMD Archives

Get up and move! There’s no question that aerobic exercise will improve your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

To get the most benefits, rev it up -- vigorous exercise has a longer-lasting and more significant impact. When you’re exercising vigorously, you’ll start sweating within 3 to 5 minutes and still be able to talk but not sing.

Whether you’re just getting started or are an exercise veteran, these tips will keep you moving.

Vary your routine. It’s best for your body to switch things up. Change up the intensity, too.

Get Ready…

  • Check with your doctor first. If you have a personal or family history of heart disease, it’s an especially good idea to get your doctor’s OK before starting a new exercise program.
  • Equip yourself.For any kind of cardio, such as walking, running, or playing tennis, you’ll need the right shoes. Treat yourself to comfy -- and supportive -- footwear. You might also want to try an exercise DVD, a gym membership, light hand weights, or resistance bands.
  • Choose the right workout. Your sister may swear by Zumba, but if you’ve always felt like you have two left feet, you may be happier walking or swimming.

Get Set…

  • Find a buddy. Exercise is often more fun when you have a partner. It’s harder to skip a session, too, when you know you’ll be leaving a friend in the lurch!
  • Weather -- or not. Make a list of activities you can do indoors or out, no matter what the season. If you love tennis, try adding indoor squash or handball. If walking outside is your favorite activity, find a mall or inside track so you can keep up the pace when winter weather howls.
  • Put technology to work. Whether you’re looking for a new bike trail or want to monitor your heart rate, your smartphone can help. Hundreds of fitness-themed apps are available -- many for free!
  • Schedule your workouts. Don’t say, “I’m going to try to exercise more this week.” Say, “I’m going to walk briskly for 30 minutes Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.” You’re more likely to stick with an exercise plan if you schedule it.


  • Start small.In a burst of early enthusiasm, some people start an exercise program that’s too challenging for them. Next thing you know, they’re discouraged and give up. Start small, so you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment right away. For instance, start with 10 minutes of exercise and add a minute or two a week until you can comfortably walk 30 minutes. If 10 minutes is too difficult now, start with 2 to 3 minutes. In the same way, if 30 minutes isn’t challenging, start with 40, and so forth.
  • Set a goal.Maybe it’s to sign up for a 5K, or go on a bike trip. Pick a challenge to work toward, for an extra boost of motivation.
  • Work through aches. A new workout (especially for strength training) almost always leaves you somewhat sore for 1 to 2 days. If the aches are drowning your motivation, try exercising every other day to give your muscles a break without losing the gains you’ve made.
  • Vary your routine. While you might find comfort in doing the same thing over and over, it’s best for your body to switch things up. Varying your intensity ensures you’ll get stronger and faster. Like to walk? Change your pace. Love your workout DVD? Try a more challenging one.
  • Add strength training. While strength training hasn’t been proven to lower cholesterol or triglycerides, building muscle lets you work out harder and longer (with less risk of injury). Plus, muscles burn more energy -- even at rest -- which helps take weight off. Lowering your weight lowers cholesterol and triglycerides. Aim for strength training 2 or more days a week.
WebMD Feature



Duke University Medical Center: "Beneficial Effect of Exercise on Cholesterol Levels Persists After Exercise Cessation."

Kravitz, L. IDEA Fitness Journal, October 2007.

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Starting an Exercise Program." "How to Stick to an Exercise Routine."

Harvard School of Public Health, The Nutrition Source: "20 Exercise Tips."

American Heart Association: "Exercise Tips for Older Americans."

Hope College Wellness Program: "How Intense Must Exercise Be?"

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans."

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