Exercise is an important part of keeping your cholesterol levels within a healthy range. Although the exact mechanism by which exercise lowers cholesterol is not fully known, the end results are clear: slightly lowered LDL, increased HDL, weight loss, and a stronger body. While the benefits of exercise are numerous, beginning with – and sticking to – an exercise program can be a little challenging at first. In some cases, finding time to commit to an exercise program can be difficult, or it is possible to get burned out on exercise at some point during the program. However, with a little bit of planning, any exercise routine you design will help lower your cholesterol – and improve your health.
Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when designing your exercise plan to lower your cholesterol:
- Talk to your healthcare provider. If you have a chronic health condition, such as heart disease or diabetes, consult with your healthcare provider first to make sure that you are healthy enough for moderate exercise. If you are transitioning to an exercise routine from a sedentary lifestyle, it is probably to get checked out by your healthcare provider, too, just to make sure that you can tolerate exercise.
- Start slow. Immersing yourself into an intense exercise program will cause you to get burned out quickly, resulting in an abandoned exercise program. If it has been a while since you’ve exercised, take small steps and slowly build yourself up to moderate exercise. Once you get to a comfortable pace, stick with this for a while. Overdoing exercise -- or starting the program too quickly -- could also result in injury.
- Pick exercises you enjoy. You don’t necessarily have to jog to lower your cholesterol, nor do you need an expensive membership to a gym. Select exercises that you enjoy –- and will stick to. Cycling, swimming, tennis, basketball, and walking are just a few of many exercises that can get your body – and your cholesterol – moving. Low-impact forms of exercise, such as tai chi and yoga, have also been shown to slightly lower cholesterol levels in some studies.
- Switch it up. Changing up your routine will ensure that your exercise program will never be boring. This could include utilizing more than one type of exercise during the week, changing up the settings you conduct your exercises (indoors versus in the park), or including a friend or pet when you exercise.
- Fit it in on most days of the week. Studies have shown that, in order to see the cholesterol-lowering benefits of exercise, it should be done for at least thirty minutes on most days of the week. Having problems fitting in thirty minute blocks? Try dividing your time up into two, 15-minute increments a day to achieve the same benefits.
There are many healthy benefits to implementing an exercise routine -- besides lowering your cholesterol. Coupling regular exercise with a cholesterol-lowering diet and other healthy lifestyle changes could also further lower your risk of developing health problems down the road.
Edleman CL, Mandle CL. Health Promotion Throughout the Life Span, 7th edition. 2008. Philadelphia, PA.