Cholesterol and Exercise: How Physical Activity Can Improve Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol is a type of fat that is produced by the liver and is present in some of the foods we eat. It is an essential component of our body’s cell membranes, hormones, and other vital functions. However, high levels of cholesterol in the blood can lead to various health problems, including heart disease and stroke.
Fortunately, regular physical activity can help improve cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of developing these health problems. In this article, we will explore how physical activity can improve cholesterol levels and the types of exercise that can be beneficial.
How does physical activity improve cholesterol levels?
Physical activity has several beneficial effects on cholesterol levels. Here are some of the ways exercise can help:
Increase HDL cholesterol levels: High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is often referred to as “good” cholesterol because it helps remove cholesterol from the bloodstream. Regular physical activity can increase HDL levels, which helps reduce the risk of heart disease.
Reduce triglyceride levels: Triglycerides are another type of fat in the bloodstream. High levels of triglycerides are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Physical activity can reduce triglyceride levels, which helps improve cholesterol levels overall.
Lower LDL cholesterol levels: Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol because it can build up in the arteries, leading to plaque formation and an increased risk of heart disease. Regular physical activity can lower LDL levels, which helps reduce the risk of heart disease.
Improve overall cardiovascular health: Exercise can improve the health of the heart and blood vessels, which can help improve cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
What types of exercise are beneficial?
Various types of exercise can be beneficial for improving cholesterol levels. Here are some of the best exercises to consider:
Aerobic exercise: Also known as cardio, aerobic exercise includes activities that increase your heart rate and breathing, such as running, cycling, or swimming. Aerobic exercise is particularly effective at increasing HDL cholesterol levels and reducing triglyceride levels.
Resistance training: Resistance training involves using weights or resistance bands to build strength and muscle mass. Resistance training can help increase HDL cholesterol levels and lower LDL cholesterol levels.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT): HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by periods of rest or low-intensity exercise. HIIT has been shown to be effective at improving cholesterol levels, particularly HDL cholesterol levels.
Yoga: Yoga can help reduce stress, which can have a positive effect on cholesterol levels. Some studies have also found that yoga can help lower LDL cholesterol levels.
How much exercise is needed to improve cholesterol levels?
The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise each week. It is also recommended to do strength training exercises at least two days per week.
However, any amount of physical activity is better than none, so if you are new to exercise, start by doing what you can and gradually increase your activity level over time.
High cholesterol levels can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Regular physical activity can help improve cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of these health problems.
Aerobic exercise, resistance training, HIIT, and yoga are all beneficial for improving cholesterol levels. It is recommended to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week and two days of strength training per week.
Remember, any amount of physical activity is better than none, so start small and gradually increase your activity level over time.