Exercise is one of the best ways to lower your cholesterol. We are beginning to understand how it works. First of all, exercise may help you lose weight which will help lower your cholesterol. Being overweight tends to increase the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in your blood. LDL is the type of cholesterol that has been linked to heart disease (remember, “L” is for “Lousy”).
Exercise stimulates enzymes that help move LDL from your blood to your liver. In your liver, the cholesterol is converted into bile or excreted. Therefore, the more you exercise, the more LDL your body expels. Exercise also increases the size of the protein particles that carry cholesterol through your blood. The combination of protein and cholesterol is called a lipoprotein. Some of these lipoproteins are small and dense and some are big and fluffy. It is the small, dense lipoproteins that are dangerous because they can squeeze into linings of the heart and blood vessels. Studies have shown that exercise increases the size of the proteins that carry both the good (HDL) and bad (LDL) lipoproteins.
Now that we know exercise helps lower cholesterol, how much do we need to exercise? Most health organizations recommend a minimum of 30 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous exercise such as walking, jogging, biking, swimming, etc. However, studies have found that more intense exercise is better than moderate for lowering cholesterol. Also, those who exercised more intensely raised their high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – the “Happy” lipoprotein that helps remove cholesterol from the blood.
Even though moderate exercise is not as effective in reducing LDL or increasing HDL, it does keep cholesterol levels from rising. Therefore, some exercise is better than none; and more exercise is better than some.
If you have not been exercising regularly, you need to start slowly and check with your doctor. Once you have been cleared to exercise, here are some pointers:
• Choose something you can do for 10-20 minutes at a time at a moderate intensity (walking, biking, swimming, jogging, elliptical machine, rowing machine, etc.)
• Work up to 30 minutes of activity per day minimum. You can get your exercise in 10-minute increments if needed, but it needs to add up to 30 minutes by the end of the day.
• Find an activity you enjoy that you will continue. You do not need to join a gym or purchase expensive exercise equipment. You can walk your dog (dogs need exercise, too!), ride your bike around the neighborhood, swim, join a local fitness class, etc.
• Try to find several activities you enjoy so you can vary your routine and use different muscles. Also, try to find an activity that can be done indoors and/or outdoors so you can be prepared for the weather.
Of course, exercise won’t guarantee low cholesterol. Genetics, weight, age, gender, and diet all contribute to your cholesterol. Exercise has additional advantages: it can keep your bones strong, reduce risk of cancer, diabetes, stroke and obesity. Exercise also helps fight depression and lowers the risk for dementia.
For more information about exercise and fitness, contact Janet Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Janet’s Fitness Facebook page.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.