Exercise over Cholesterol
How Much Exercise Does It Take To Lower Cholesterol?
Exactly how much exercise is needed to lower cholesterol has been a matter of some debate. In general, most public health organizations recommend, at a minimum, 30 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous exercise , such as walking, jogging, biking, or gardening.
But a 2002 study by researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that more intense exercise is actually better than moderate exercise for lowering cholesterol. In a study of overweight, sedentary people who did not change their diet, the researchers found that those who got moderate exercise (the equivalent of 12 miles of walking or jogging per week) did lower their LDL level somewhat. But the people who did more vigorous exercise (the equivalent of 20 miles of jogging a week) lowered it even more.
The people who exercised vigorously also raised their levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) — the “good” kind of lipoprotein that actually helps clear cholesterol from the blood. “We found it requires a good amount of high intensity exercise to significantly change HDL,” saysWilliam Kraus, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Duke and the lead author on the study. “Just walking is not enough.”
According to Kraus’s findings, however, even though moderate exercise was not as effective in reducing LDL or increasing HDL, it did keep cholesterol levels from rising.
Bottom line? Some exercise is better than none; more exercise is better than some.
Just how much of an effect exercise has on cholesterol is also a matter of debate. “We’ve found that the people who benefit the most are those who had the worst diet and exercise habits to begin with,” says Roger Blumenthal, MD, director of the Ciccarone Preventive Cardiology Center at Johns Hopkins University. “Some of those people reduce their LDL by 10-15% and increase their HDL by 20%.”
If you haven’t been exercising regularly already, it’s important to start slowly. Be sure to check in with your doctor, so that he or she can evaluate your current cardiovascular health. This could mean blood tests or a treadmill test to see how your heart reacts when you exercise.)