Monday, December 18, 2017

Exercise to Improve Cholesterol

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by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner

September is National Cholesterol Education Month. Your workout benefits cholesterol levels. Learn how to maximize this effect …

There are natural alternatives to help improve cholesterol levels, from supplements to cinnamon (albeit not when part of a glazed sticky bun). Certain foods are known to make a difference in those often stubborn numbers. A cholesterol-friendly diet can have a positive impact. Combined with an appropriate fitness plan, you’ve got a powerful defense against unhealthy cholesterol.

How It Works

cholesterol line art, picExercise helps decrease risk factors for cholesterol issues, including unhealthy weight, diabetes, poor cardiovascular health, and even high stress levels. Exercise also has a direct impact on cholesterol itself. Specifics on how are tricky to determine because studies inevitably include exercise’s indirect benefits as well, like achieving a healthy weight.

Recent studies suggest:

  • Exercise increases the size of lipoproteins, the vehicle that carries cholesterol through the blood. Smaller lipoproteins, such as small, dense LDL, are associated with cardiovascular disease. Moderate exercise increases the size of these particles, which reduces risk.
  • Exercise may reduce absorption of cholesterol into the blood.
  • Exercise may help transport cholesterol to the liver where it is expelled from the body.

What It Takes

Moderate exercise, most days of the week, effectively reduces LDL cholesterol by 5 to 10 percent. Simultaneously, HDL (good) cholesterol can be increased by 3 to 6 percent. Combined with a healthy diet, physicians usually recommend exercise as the first line of attack on unhealthy cholesterol readings.

Check with a nurse to achieve your target heart rate.
Check with a nurse to achieve your target heart rate.

Aerobic workouts are most advantageous for cholesterol improvement. Take more steps throughout your day– a walk after dinner, a farther parking space, the stairs, a long way around the office, multiple trips to load and unload your car. These are simple ways to increase movement and prime your body for more formal exercise.

Strength training indirectly helps cholesterol by building muscle, which efficiently burns fat even at rest and helps achieve a healthier weight. Build stamina and increase strength to better accomplish the aerobic aspect of your routine, like swimming, boxing, and cycling.

Try to achieve your target heart rate during your workout. This can be effective, sometimes even more so, when done in brief intervals. Aim to reach between 60 and 80 percent of your maximum heart rate for the most impressive results. A Center nurse can help determine your target heart rate zone. Then, a personal trainer or fitness instructor can advise on how to safely, effectively reach that zone.

No Excuses

If you aren’t ready for high intensity, or even moderate fitness programs, don’t procrastinate getting started. Low-intensity workouts also help the cause while increasing your capacity to work out stronger and longer in the future. Find something you enjoy and engage in it. This makes it easier to remain committed and quicker to accomplish results.

Go with the flow! Yoga and T'ai Chi can be cholesterol-lowering workouts.
Go with the flow! Yoga and T’ai Chi can be cholesterol-lowering workouts.

Studies indicate yoga and T’ai Chi have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels. The extent to which study participants exerted themselves during these activities is unclear. Particularly with yoga, there are a variety of types and skill levels, which can determine benefits gained.

Perhaps it is simply the soothing nature of these exercise forms that positively impacts cholesterol. A new study found good stress-coping skills may increase levels of good cholesterol. Fluid, mindful movements seem an appropriate coping mechanism. Give it a try! Start with gentle, beginner routines. As you advance, test your cholesterol to determine the effect.

The need for cholesterol medication, although sometimes necessary, is often decreased or eliminated through exercise and diet. Work with your physician to help create a cholesterol-friendly lifestyle. Work at the Center to put it into action.


“Can Tai Chi Lower Cholesterol Levels?” by Jennifer Moll at

“Coping with Stress Helps Cholesterol,” by Kathleen Doheny at

“How Does Exercise Lower Cholesterol,” by Jennifer Moll at

Image Credits

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Flow yoga:

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