It’s easy to panic if you get some worrisome cholesterol test results. It’s a scary reality check to discover that your body’s not invincible.
It’s also easy to take a drug and assume that that will fix the problem. But drugs aren’t always successful—sometimes not even as successful as changes to diet and exercise. They also come with side effects. So while we’d never suggest that you forgo medications that your doctor deems necessary, we’d like to encourage you to take the bull by the horns and address your health condition in ways that you can control.
How Can You Lower Cholesterol With Exercise?
But first, no discussion of high cholesterol would be complete without mention of diet. To reduce your LDL (the bad cholesterol) and increase your HDL (the good cholesterol that wages war with the bad), you need to change your eating habits. Some basic recommendations include:
- Watch portion sizes. This will help you maintain a healthy weight, which is crucial to keeping your arteries free and clear.
- Consume five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Don’t douse them with sauces or butter.
- Go fishing. Eat fish (steamed, grilled or baked, not fried) twice a week to get a good dose of omega-3’s, which lower triglycerides.
- Put oatmeal to work sweeping bad cholesterol from your blood. Plain popcorn and wild rice are other good additions to your diet.
- Go nuts. They’re a great source of monosaturated fat, which lowers LDL. But stop at a small handful—see “watch portion sizes” above.
- Get the right fat. Canola, olive and safflower oils are unsaturated fats, which can have a positive effect on bad cholesterol and may raise good cholesterol.
- Go to the dark side. Dark beans, whole wheat foods and brown rice are better than light foods like white bread and white rice. They keep you feeling full and steady your blood sugar.
Eating better isn’t the only way to move the needle, however. You can move your body to lower cholesterol with exercise. Studies have shown that physical activity is inversely correlated with coronary heart disease, meaning more exercise is connected to a lower risk of blockage in your coronary arteries.
Exercise helps your body expel LDL, that pesky bad cholesterol. It makes the proteins that carry both HDL and LDL through your bloodstream bigger, so they can’t slip into the cracks and set up shop in your heart and blood vessels. Beyond achieving lower cholesterol with exercise, you can reduce your weight, which tends to cause a decrease in LDL. And exercise can decrease belly fat, thus raising HDL and lowering LDL.
So make this your new mantra to lower cholesterol with exercise: at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, five days a week. That’s your minimum. But more is better! While moderate exercise can prevent your bad cholesterol from rising, researchers at Duke University found that vigorous exercise was far more successful in decreasing LDL.
If you want to lower cholesterol with exercise, go as hard as you can and boost your intensity in the gym (with your doctor’s clearance). Kick that LDL to the curb and boost your healthy HDL. Your beautiful arteries and happy heart will thank you!