The Exercise- “The Cure” series continues today with a focus on the benefits of exercise for high cholesterol! If this is the first article you are reading in this series, thus far we’ve covered the overall benefits of exercise, then we focused on high blood pressure and diabetes. Catch up with the other articles in the series here!
Let’s start with, why do we need cholesterol at all? We speak about high cholesterol so much and in a negative light that it’s easy to forget that cholesterol does serve an important purpose in our bodies. It helps give our cells shape and structure, they help build our hormones, contribute to bile which helps us digest food and much more. Cholesterol is important! So why do we often speak of it so negatively?
Well too much of the wrong types of cholesterol and its products are directly linked to heart disease and death. You may often hear about good and bad cholesterol. So the High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is the “good” one and the Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) is the “bad” one. All this means is that we don’t want the LDL to be high. Be very careful about doing cholesterol blood tests. Please let your physician interpret them. Many of these blood tests, test Total Cholesterol which is not a very accurate measure as it is more important to look at the cholesterol composition, how much of each LDL, HDL and others you have in relation to the total. So anyway, to keep your LDL low and your HDL high we know that diet is important! But how does exercise factor in?
Exercise helps with having a healthy cholesterol composition in a few ways according to several studies:
- It encourages the muscles to use/burn fats for energy thus preventing excess cholesterol from being stored
- It encourages our enzymes to process and remove excess cholesterol
- All types of exercise, aerobic, weight training and a generally active lifestyle lead to an improvement in cholesterol composition
- Increases in good cholesterol (HDL) was particularly observed in men!
- Improvements in HDL and reduction in LDL was directly related to the amount of exercise done. The more exercise, the greater improvement.
- Transitioning from a sedentary to an active lifestyle leads to improvements in cholesterol composition
- The types of exercises most effective at causing the changes were moderate to intense aerobic activity and moderate-intensity resistance training
At the simplest level, the most important things to understand are that
- Exercise can improve your cholesterol and
- The more exercise you do, the more your cholesterol improves!
Throughout the series, the entire message has been, exercise helps! Do it! But you must be wondering: How much is enough exercise? That’s why I will address that in the next article! How much is enough? How much is enough for your age? How much is enough if you have diabetes or high blood pressure? Stay tuned!
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