At normal levels, cholesterol helps your body to function, but excessive amounts can accumulate on the walls of your veins and slow blood flow. The impaired circulation can lead to heart disease, but regular physical exercise helps to keep cholesterol within a safe range. There’s a whole group of exercises, not just one single activity, you can do to lower cholesterol levels. For the best outcome, control high cholesterol under a doctor’s supervision.
Recommended Exercise Type
Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise helps to reduce cholesterol when done regularly. An aerobic activity is one that stimulates your cardiovascular system -- your lungs and heart -- and is performed continuously for at least 20 minutes each session. Aerobic workouts also engage large muscle groups, such as the quadriceps and chest, in rhythmic movement; cycling and jogging are examples of aerobic activities. Done at moderate intensity, the exercise increases your heart rate and makes you sweat, but it isn’t so vigorous that it makes it impossible for you to talk to someone at the same time.
Options for moderate-intensity exercise are too many to name. You can begin to reduce your cholesterol by walking at a pace of 3.5 to 4 miles per hour on level terrain, for example. Another option is to bike on flat surfaces, with little to no elevation gain, at 5 to 9 miles per hour. Shooting baskets, playing golf and rowing at less than 4 miles per hour are sport activities that also raise your heart rate and engage large muscle groups. Keep in mind that moderate-intensity activities are not limited to participation in formal exercise and sports. Doing things like mowing the lawn, playing with the kids or waiting tables can all speed up your heart and cause you to break a sweat.
Keep It Regular
To be effective at reducing cholesterol, your exercise routine has to include 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly. Divide the time among the days of the week instead of working out for 150 minutes in a single day. It's also helpful to vary the types of exercise you do to give muscles time to rest and heal. If you walk on one day, consider swimming the next. If you stick to a single exercise, incorporate rest days to avoid muscle fatigue, which can lead to injuries.
Monitoring Your Cholesterol
A blood test called lipoprotein profiling determines whether your cholesterol level is within a safe range. Since the amount of cholesterol can change over time, you should have it tested at least every five years. There are two types of cholesterol: LDL is considered bad, while HDL is known as good cholesterol. A healthy person’s LDL should be below 100 milligrams and HDL concentration should be 40 milligrams or more. Your level of triglycerides, which are in the composition of natural fats and oils, are often also checked when you get your blood tested for cholesterol. More than 150 milligrams of triglycerides increase the risk of stroke. If your cholesterol -- or triglyceride -- is outside of normal range, your doctor may prescribe dietary changes and medication in addition to an active lifestyle.
- MedlinePlus: Cholesterol
- National Health Service: Lower Your Cholesterol
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Aerobic Exercise
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: General Physical Activities Defined by Level of Intensity
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: What You Can Do
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans