I think we all can agree that a sensible diet helps lower cholesterol levels. However, I often get asked about exercise and its role in cholesterol reduction. Well, here’s the answer(s).
First, exercise stimulates enzymes that help move low density lipoproteins (LDLs, which has been linked to heart disease) from the blood stream to the liver. From there, the cholesterol is converted into bile (or digested) or excreted. So the more you exercise, the more LDL gets expelled.
Second, exercise increases the size of the protein particles that carry cholesterol through the blood. This combination is called a “lipoprotein”; some of which are small and dense; some are big and fluffy. “The small, dense particles are more dangerous than the big fluffy ones because the ones can squeeze into the [linings of the heart and blood vessels] and set up shop there,” says Amit Kehra, MD, director of the University of Texas, Southwestern, Medical Center’s Program in Preventative Cardiology.
In a study done by Duke University Medical Center in 2002, overweight-sedentary people, who did not change their eating habits, lowered their LDL levels by exercising the equivalent of 20 miles of jogging a week. Look guys, that’s three miles a day! Even if you “ran” a 10 minute mile, it would only take you 30 minutes a day. Isn’t that worth the time commitment?
In the same study, it was found (and all to obvious) that the people who exercised even more vigorously than those who jogged 20 miles a week, also raised their levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL — the “good” kind of lipoprotein) that actually helps eliminates cholesterol from the blood.
So how much exercise is enough? For the current sedentary person, the American Heart Association recommends working up to 30 minutes of physical activity per day, or 60 minutes per day if you’re also trying to lose weight. Remember, you can get your exercise in 10 minutes increments if need be, as long as it adds up to 30 minutes by the end of the day. But truthfully, some exercise is better than none; more exercise is better than some.