Regular exercise can lower cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of adverse health effects. Good physical activity options include brisk walking, running, and resistance training.
First, it is advisable to aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week to reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol helps the body build cells, make vitamins and hormones, and digest certain fatty foods. However, high LDL cholesterol can be dangerous and put you at risk for several health problems, including heart attack and stroke.
Physical exercise lowers cholesterol. Here are the best types of physical activity to try to better manage your cholesterol.
Types of cholesterol
It should be noted that there are two main types of cholesterol in a person’s body: LDL cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol. When people talk about lowering their cholesterol levels, they are referring to LDL cholesterol.
Can exercise lower cholesterol?
Yes, studies show that 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week is enough to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Exercise can also help raise good HDL cholesterol. A 2013 study showed that walking for 1 hour a day, 5 days a week for 24 weeks, increased HDL cholesterol levels in the body.
A 2015 study supported this finding, showing that HDL cholesterol levels in the body increased after regular high-intensity strength training three times a week for 10 weeks.
Regular exercise can also help in a variety of other ways, including:
– help a person achieve or maintain a moderate body weight
– improve mental health
– strengthen muscles and bones
– increase energy level and reduce fatigue
A person can also lower the LDL cholesterol level in their body in other ways. These include in particular:
– have a healthy diet
– reduce levels of saturated fats and trans fats in the diet
– reduce alcohol consumption
– maintain a moderate body weight
– stop smoking
– reduce stress
– get enough sleep
Types of exercise and their effects on cholesterol
Regular exercise is a good way to be fit and healthy and to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in the body.
Here are some of the forms of exercise that can help lower LDL cholesterol levels.
Regular brisk walks have many health benefits. One study showed that people who walked for one hour a day, five days a week, saw a reduction in LDL cholesterol levels in their body. Walking regularly and at a brisk pace is a good way to stay fit and healthy, and this activity is often easier to manage and perform than running. A 2013 study compared walking to running. She said that as long as the amount of energy a person expends is the same, moderate walking and vigorous running reduce the risk of a number of heart problems by the same amount.
Regular running also has many health benefits. It can help people get in shape, lose weight and improve their mental health. A 2019 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine linked running, regardless of frequency, to a 27% reduction in the risk of death from all causes. Running can also help lower the amount of LDL cholesterol in a person’s blood.
Cycling is another effective way to lower LDL cholesterol levels. A study in the Journal of the American Heart Association showed that people who cycled to work were less likely to have high cholesterol than those who didn’t. The authors also noted that cycling to work reduced the risk of several cardiovascular health problems.
Resistance training increases muscle strength by working the muscles against a form of resistance. Resistance training can also be called “strength training”. Resistance training can include the use of weights, such as dumbbells or kettlebells, weight machines found in gyms, or body weight.
Common resistance training exercises include:
– the pumps
A 2014 review found that premenopausal people who did supervised resistance training sessions saw the amounts of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in their bodies decrease over 14 weeks. Participants took part in resistance training three times a week, with each session lasting 40 to 50 minutes.
Organized sports and other activities
Other sports and activities may also be beneficial in lowering cholesterol levels and improving overall health.
The main factors to consider are how much energy the body uses to engage in the sport or activity and how often the person engages in it.
The following sports and activities may be helpful:
– team sports, such as basketball, football
– high intensity interval training (HIIT)
How much exercise to do?
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that adults should get a certain amount of exercise each week to stay healthy. However, she points out that one in four adults worldwide do not meet the globally recommended levels of physical activity.
The WHO recommends that adults aim for one of the following goals:
– at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week
– at least 75-150 minutes of more vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity per week
– an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous intensity physical activity throughout the week.
Heart rate tracking
Tracking heart rate during exercise can help a person reach their fitness or weight loss goals. Heart rate is a good indicator of how much effort a person puts in when exercising. You can calculate his maximum heart rate by subtracting his age from 220 to get a value in beats per minute (bpm). For example, a 30-year-old would subtract 30 from 220, giving them a maximum heart rate of about 190 bpm.
Optimal cholesterol level
The desirable total cholesterol level is less than 200 mg/dl. Specifically, the desired level of LDL cholesterol is less than 100 mg/dl, and the optimal level of HDL cholesterol is greater than or equal to 60 mg/dl. When a person has a blood lipid test to measure these levels, their doctor can help them understand what the results mean for their health.
If a person’s cholesterol level is not in the healthy range, their doctor can help them develop a personalized treatment plan. This plan may include exercise recommendations and dietary changes. In some cases, the doctor may also suggest other treatments.
You can fight high cholesterol with regular exercise. Walking, running, cycling, and swimming are forms of exercise that help lower total cholesterol and LDL levels. Often, these exercises can also help raise HDL cholesterol levels.
A person can also lower their LDL cholesterol level by making lifestyle changes, such as improving their diet and quitting smoking.
Almenning, I., et al. (2015). Effects of high intensity interval training and strength training on metabolic, cardiovascular and hormonal outcomes in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: A pilot study.
Di Raimondo, D., et al. (2013). Metabolic and anti-inflammatory effects of a home-based program of aerobic physical exercise [Abstract].
Mann, S., et al. (2014). Differential effects of aerobic exercise, resistance training and combined exercise modalities on cholesterol and the lipid profile: Review, synthesis and recommendations.
Williams, PT (1997). Relationship of distance run per week to coronary heart disease risk factors in 8283 male runners the National Runners’ Health Study.