Can Weight Training Lower Bad Cholesterol?

Fit couple exercising with blue dumbbells
A man and woman are curling blue dumbbells. (Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images)

Low-density lipoproteins, or LDL cholesterols, are the molecules that transport cholesterol to your body's tissues through the bloodstream. When large amounts of LDL are inside the blood, your risk for developing atherosclerosis increases. Atherosclerosis begins with an injury to an arterial wall that develops into a place for particles in the blood to stick. LDL cholesterol is prone to sticking to the injured site and becoming oxidized. Over time, this can result in calcified plaque and can cause a heart attack or stroke, the American Heart Association says. An exercise program, including weight training, can help you control your LDL cholesterol levels.

Normal Levels

Your LDL cholesterol levels are best when kept under 100mg/dl. According to the American Heart Association, levels between 100mg/dL to 129 mg/dL are just above ideal, 130mg/dL to 159mg/dL are borderline high, 160mg/dL to 189mg/dL are high and levels greater than 190mg/dL are very high. The higher your LDL cholesterol, the greater your risk for developing atherosclerosis.

LDL and Weight Training

Weight training can help lower your bad cholesterol. According to a 1987 study conducted by I.H. Ullrich and colleagues published in the "Southern Medical Journal," HDL and LDL cholesterol levels can benefit from weight training. This study took 25 men who weight trained for eight weeks, three times per week. The weight-training program showed a decrease in blood LDL levels.

Causes

While the exact mechanism by which weight training lowers LDL levels is not understood, perhaps LDL cholesterol decreases with weight training due to the effects of exercise on your body composition, according to "Designing Resistance Training Programs." Over time, resistance training increases skeletal muscle growth and strength. When your body fat percentage decreases and your lean body mass increases, your health benefits. One of these benefits includes an improved lipid profile and reduced LDL cholesterol.

Exercise Program

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, an exercise program aimed at increasing health should include a resistance training portion. Resistance exercises can be done two to three days per week with at least 24 hours' rest between sessions. You should participate in eight to 10 exercises that target all of the major muscle groups of the body. Work up to doing three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. Incorporate resistance training with cardiovascular exercise and a healthful diet if you'd like to lose a few pounds. Losing just 5 percent of your body fat can improve your cardiovascular health and your cholesterol level.

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