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How To Manage Your Cholesterol With Exercising?

Researchers are not completely sure how exercise decreases cholesterol, but they tend to get a better understanding. "Most people, even many doctors think exercise is reducing cholesterol," says Amit Khera, MD, head of the preventive cardiology program at the University of Texas, Southwest, and Medical Centre. "Yet, most of us until recently didn't realize what the link was."

One way to help reduce cholesterol is by helping you lose weight. The level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in your blood, the type of lipoprotein-associated with heart disease, appears to be elevated by overweight.

Part of the mystery about the effect of exercise on cholesterol derives from the fact that most early trials of cholesterol relied on exercise as well as dietary changes, making it difficult to discern which of these variables really made the difference. However, recent studies have investigated the impact of exercise even more closely, encouraging the assessment of the association between exercise and cholesterol.

Researchers already conclude that a variety of processes are involved. The first thing you do is activate the enzymes that help transfer LDL from your blood (and walls of the blood vessel) to your liver. Cholesterol is either processed into bile (for digestion) or excreted. The more you train, the more the LDL expels out of your body.

How Much Exercise Does It Take To Lower Cholesterol?

It has been a matter of some controversy just how much activity is needed to reduce cholesterol. In general, most public health agencies promote mild to intensive activity, such as walking, jogging, or biking at a minimum of 30 minutes each day.

But researchers at Duke University Medical Center discovered in a 2002 analysis that more vigorous exercise is generally safer than low cholesterol reduction exercise. The researchers found that those who got mild exercise (the equivalent of 12 miles of walking or jogging a week) did reduce their LDL level significantly in a sample of overweight, sedentary individuals who did not change their diet. But it was lower than those who performed further physical activity (the equivalent of 20 miles of jogging a week).

The individuals who exercised aggressively also increased their high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels — the "healthy" form of lipoprotein that generally helps reduce blood cholesterol. We find that in order to substantially improve HDL, it requires a decent amount of high-intensity exercise, "says William Kraus, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Duke and the lead author of the report." "Just walking is not appropriate."

Once you're cleared to begin working out, follow these guidelines:

Choose a type of exercise that you can perform at least moderate intensity for 10-20 minutes at a time, such as cycling, swimming, jogging, or using a low-speed exercise machine.

Know that although the strength can be mild, the "volume of exercise" needs to be very high, which implies the amount of time you spend exercising. If you are not seeking to lose weight, the American Heart Association advises striving for up to 30 minutes of physical exercise per day, or 60 minutes per day. Remember: if necessary, you can get the workout in intervals of 10 minutes, as long as it adds up to 30 minutes at the end of the day.

If it's walking your dog, playing tag with your friends, swimming laps at a park, or cycling around your neighborhood, find an experience you enjoy. It may be good to have a friend to workout with, both for positive reinforcement and to help make fitness more fun.

Perhaps better, choose many things you enjoy, so that your schedule can be varied. This encourages you to exercise more than one set of muscles and to enjoy multiple fitness experiences.

Exercise itself will, of course, ensure a reduced level of cholesterol. Genetics, weight, age, gender, and diet all contribute to the cholesterol profile of a person. Modifying the diet and taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, if necessary, is the most efficient way to ensure a safe cholesterol level.

But above, reducing cholesterol, exercise has many benefits. It has been shown that exercise keeps bones healthy, decreases the risk of cancer, diabetes, stroke, and obesity, and boosts mood. "Even though the cholesterol profile improvements are modest, there are many, many other advantages," says Blumenthal.

  • American College on Exercise. Managing Cholesterol with Exercise. Accessed 3/13/2018.

  • American Heart Association. Get Moving: Tips to get active Accessed 3/13/2018.

  • Mann S, Beedie C, Jimenez A. Differential Effects of Aerobic Exercise, Resistance Training and Combined Exercise Modalities on Cholesterol and the Lipid Profile: Review, Synthesis and Recommendations. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.z). 2014;44(2):211-221.