Can exercise lower cholesterol?

Fitness for beginners

The jury is still out on whether exercise lowers overall cholesterol. Whether it does or not can often comes down to the interpretation of the research.

A study may show that the effect is statistically significant, but clinically, it may drop only a few percentage points and not enough to lower cholesterol into a healthy range.

The good news is that exercise will certainly make you fitter and if your cholesterol does not fall overall it is now agreed that it certainly improves other lipid risk factors for heart disease. Triglycerides almost always drop with regular aerobic exercise and in some people the good cholesterol (HDL’s) rise. Scientists believe that HDL cholesterol carries “bad” cholesterol (LDL’s) away from arteries and to the liver where it’s removed from the body).

Most scientific research centres on aerobic exercise such as jogging, biking and the cardio machines at the gym, but how much you should do and how hard you should workout is still not clear. However exercising at higher intensities have a better chance of success and therefore 30 minutes, 5 days a week at an intensity of approximately 65% to 75% of your maximum heart rate is the kind of programme you should aim for. Consistency is also important.

If you suffer with high cholesterol and your doctor as suggested statins (cholesterol lowing drugs) it may be worth trying to make a deal with him where you get him to agree to let you try 3 months of regular exercise and a low fat diet. If it fails then you need to discuss your options. All drugs can have side effects and statins are no exception, but they are an effective medication and reactions to them are rare and can be easily monitored.

So give it a go and if it fails to lower your cholesterol and you do have to go on statins you can still be sure that after 3 months of exercise you will certainly look and feel great.

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