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Which Exercise Routine Is Best to Lower Cholesterol?


Updated May 20, 2014

Aerobic Exercise
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Question: Which Exercise Routine Is Best to Lower Cholesterol?

Exercise is an important tool in lowering cholesterol and promoting overall health. It can lower total cholesterol by an average of 10% in conjunction with a healthy diet. There are a lot of exercise programs out there, and most types of exercise routines, ranging from walking to running to yoga, appear to have the same impact when it comes to lowering LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and raising HDL (”good” cholesterol).

Most studies have been performed on aerobic exercises, such as jogging, running and aerobics. Aerobic exercises appear to benefit cholesterol the most, by lowering LDL by 5 to 10% and raising HDL cholesterol by 3 to 6%.

Water exercises, such as swimming, water walking, and participating in water games, can also produce similar results in your cholesterol profile as aerobic exercise.

Even if you are not an avid jogger or haven’t been active in a while, you can also enjoy other exercises that may lower cholesterol. For instance, studies have shown that walking, yoga, and tai chi can also lower cholesterol. However, these studies are few in comparison to studies looking at aerobic exercise.

How Much Exercise Do You Need?

Current research has shown that in order to achieve lower cholesterol levels, you must obtain at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. If you are too busy to fit a 30 minute time period into your schedule, not to worry: Studies have shown that if this time is divided up in intervals throughout the day (for instance, two 15 minute exercise sessions), you will receive the same healthy benefits from the exercise.

Although aerobic exercise appears to provide the most cholesterol lowering benefits, it is important to note that any type of physical activity will help lower your cholesterol, help you lose weight and promote heart health. In order to achieve even lower cholesterol, exercise should be combined with healthy diet, weight loss, and smoking cessation (if you smoke).


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Slentz CA, Houmard JA, Johnson JL et al. Inactivity, exercise training and detraining, and plasma lipoproteins. STRRIDE: a randomized, controlled study of exercise intensity and amount. J Appl Physiol. 2007 Aug;103(2):417-8.

Tucker LA, Friedman GM. Walking and serum cholesterol in adults. Am J Public Health. 1990 September; 80(9): 1111–1113.

Volaklis KA, Spassis AT, Tokmakidis SP. Land versus water exercise in patients with coronary artery disease: effects on body composition, blood lipids, and physical fitness. Am Heart J. 2007 Sep;154(3):560.e1-6.

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