Lowering your cholesterol is a proven way to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, according to the American Heart Association. And exercise, along with a healthier diet and medications such as statins, can help you reach a healthy cholesterol level. One of the most obvious ways exercise helps lower your LDL or "bad" cholesterol is by helping you maintain a healthy weight, says Amit Khera, director of the University of Texas, Southwestern, Medical Center's Program in Preventive Cardiology. Here's more to consider with the exercise-cholesterol connection.
Difficulty: Moderately Easy
To really make a big difference in your cholesterol, you should consider a plan that includes intense rather than moderate activity. A 2002 Duke University study found that patients with high cholesterol saw greater improvements in LDL reduction if they exercised more vigorously than those who only did moderate exercise each week.
Try to carve out 30 to 40 minutes every day, or at least most days, for exercise.
Talk with your doctor about a good target weight for you and then talk with a nutritionist and a trainer or similar exercise expert for tips on how to change your lifestyle in order to reach and maintain that weight.
Consider breaking up your 30-minute daily exercise program into three 10-minute programs if half an hour straight seems like too much.
Find ways to boost your activity level in everyday life. When we think of exercise, we think of health clubs, sweat and sneakers, but you can burn calories just be changing the way you approach life.
Walk instead of driving a cart on the golf course.
Park at the far end of the parking lot when you go to the store, the mall or work.
Use a bicycle to make short trips, such as going to the library, school or the store (for light shopping).
Tips & Warnings
Have your cholesterol checked regularly, at least once a year, unless your doctor tells you to check it more often. Levels can change significantly in a matter of months.