Can exercise lower cholesterol levels?

The short answer is yes. Apart from making changes to your diet, participating in regular exercise is the biggest (and simplest) adjustment you can make to your lifestyle to improve your cholesterol levels.

Why does exercise lower cholesterol?

An obvious side affect of physical activity is a reduction in body fat. Being overweight causes an increased level of LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol) in your blood. Exercise stimulates the enzymes that remove LDL from the blood, so the greater the level of exercise, the greater your body’s ability to excrete the LDL.

Another way the exercise benefits you is because it increases the size of the protein particles that carry cholesterol through the bloodstream. Small particles are denser and the most concerning, since they have the tendency to enter the heart and blood vessels and stay there, eventually resulting in blockages (think heart attack or stroke).

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What is the best type of exercise to lower cholesterol?

Simply put, any exercise is better than none… and more is better!
If you aren’t currently exercising at all, start small. For example, the Heart Foundation suggests to aim for 30-40 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (such as brisk walking), on most days. This might seem too much at first, but could be broken down in to two or three shorter sessions over the day. If walking is a struggle due to injury or lack of mobility, consider walking in waist deep water to take the load off your joints.

Taking part in some form of strength or resistance training is also recommended. This doesn’t mean lifting Olympic bars with the hulks at the gym. A simple program using body weight, light dumbbells, resistance bands or even household items can provide immense benefits and results. Joining a local exercise class with a qualified instructor is an easy way to ensure you are exercising safely and effectively, not to mention the fun and social benefits of spending time with like-minded people.

You will really notice the difference in your overall well being by incorporating some mobility and flexibility work in to your week. This might be yoga, pilates or a prescribed stretching routine.

It’s important to have a chat with your doctor prior to commencing a new exercise program.

Not sure where to start? Try an exercise physiologist.

Exercise physiologists have spent a minimum of four years at university and specialise in prescribing suitable exercise programs and solutions for people of all ages and abilities. If you have a health condition that has limited you from participating in regular exercise until now, booking in with an exercise physiologist is essential to finding a safe and enjoyable solution for your needs.