Wise food choices are an effective strategy for lowering high blood cholesterol, but did you know exercise is one other effective strategy also for doing the same thing? The good thing about becoming more physically active is the variety of other benefits it offers besides improving heart health. These other benefits include enhancing your immune system, increasing bone density, reducing obesity, and improving mood and overall outlook on life.
Why exercise is key for lowering cholesterol
Even though cholesterol has a bad reputation, your body requires it. Cholesterol is necessary to build the structure of cell membranes, make testosterone and adrenal hormones for metabolism efficiency, and is essential to help you produce vitamin D.
The majority of cholesterol circulating in your blood is what your body has made. But suppose you have more cholesterol than what is healthy. In that case, excess amounts of it can stick to the inside walls of your arteries, narrowing them and increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
One type of cholesterol likely to cause a problem is a low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. LDL cholesterol contributes to plaque buildup in arteries’ inner lining, known as atherosclerosis. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is another form of cholesterol that protects your body from unhealthy cholesterol buildup by removing harmful bad cholesterol from where it doesn’t belong, thus helping to lower heart disease risk.
Regular exercise helps raise the “good” or HDL cholesterol improving your cholesterol numbers overall. A study published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology found that regular exercise increased HDL cholesterol levels in men with undesirable belly fat. A 2002 study found that exercise improved the number and size of the particles that carry cholesterol through the body. Those who exercised had larger, ‘fluffier” particles less likely to clog arteries. The Journal of Obesity also found that even for overweight and obese adults, engaging in walking, jogging, or cycling while eating a cholesterol-lowering diet improved total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
6 exercises best for improving cholesterol numbers
Use exercise or physical activity to your advantage for lowering cholesterol simply by incorporating more activity into your day – it all adds up. Make good exercise decisions such as using the stairs, standing and walking around while talking on the phone, or jumping jacks every time a commercial on TV comes on.
Researchers recommend physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day. Any exercise is better than none, but here are six exercises that are more effective in achieving better cholesterol numbers:
1. Take a jog
If able, jogging can be one of the best moves for weight loss and getting your cholesterol numbers in a healthy range. In a 2013 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, long-distance runners showed significantly better HDL cholesterol levels and better improvements in their blood pressure.
2. Go for a brisk walk
A fast-paced walk is a highly effective exercise move for lowering blood cholesterol. Walking is especially good for older adults who want to remain active, but need exercise easy on the joints. Science also agrees as a 2013 study in the journal of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology compared thousands of runners to an equal number of walkers and found that it didn’t matter whether a person ran or walked to reduce cholesterol.
3. Hop on your bicycle
Whether for fun or as a transportation mode to get to work, bicycling protects your joints and reduces the risk of heart disease. Researchers recommend biking to work as the Journal of the American Heart Association found that those who hopped on a bike were less likely to develop high cholesterol than those who didn’t.
4. Swim some laps
Jumping into a pool is a refreshing activity. In addition, it improves body weight, body fat distribution, and LDL cholesterol levels, according to a 2010 study that compared walking with swimming in women aged 50 to 70 years.
5. Pump iron
You may not think lifting weights or resistance training would be effective for lowering cholesterol but think again. A study published in the journal Atherosclerosis found those who participated in resistance training could clear LDL cholesterol from their bloodstream faster than those who didn’t. The best bet is combining resistance training with aerobic exercise, which helps people to lose more weight and increases cardiovascular fitness. Even older people are encouraged to try weight lifting. A study in The Journals of Gerontology found that women aged 70-87 had significantly lower LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels than women who didn’t.
6. Strike a pose yoga-style
Get ready to roll out your yoga mat. Yoga is excellent for lengthening, stretching, and calming the body, yet few healthcare providers recommend it for lowering cholesterol. But that could change. Studies show yoga can significantly reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol while improving heart-healthy HDL cholesterol. There are a couple of ways yoga works to improve heart health. One is reducing stress. When stress is lowered, it actively helps lower the risk of heart disease and cholesterol levels. The second way performing yoga reduces high cholesterol is by causing modest weight loss. Losing a few pounds lowers blood fat levels, leading to lower levels of triglycerides and cholesterol.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.