The right exercise regimen can help you reduce high cholesterol, lose weight, and improve heart health.
If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol there are several steps you can take to get your cholesterol levels to a healthier range. Your doctor may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering drug, such as a statin, or recommend that you change some of your habits, such as eating a healthier diet. And one factor that is key in cholesterol level — no matter what your treatment plan may be — is getting regular exercise.
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Exercise: Helping Reduce High Cholesterol
Exercise can help to lower LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, raise HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and reduce heart disease risk by:
Burning calories to aid weight loss
Reducing high blood pressure
Raising your heart rate
Increasing your breathing rate and getting more oxygen to your body
Exercise: The Best Choices
All exercise is good for you and will improve your health, even just working in your yard, dancing in your living room, and cleaning your house. As far as a fitness routine goes, a solid program that incorporates both cardiovascular exercise (the kind that gets your heart rate going) and strengthening exercises offers many benefits. If you’re overweight and have high cholesterol, you can bring your weight down through good cardio exercise.
Try these exercise options to help shed pounds and manage high cholesterol:
Jogging or running
Taking an aerobics class
Playing tennis, basketball, or other sports
Using weight machines or lifting free weights to build muscle tone
Exercise: Intensity, Duration, and Frequency
To truly lose weight and lower cholesterol, cardiovascular exercise is what’s most important because it gets your heart rate up and burns the most calories. To get the most benefit out of exercise, be sure to:
Start out slowly. If you’re overweight and out of shape, this is especially important when you begin your exercise program. You want to strengthen your heart, not overextend it.
Gradually increase the intensity and length of your workouts. To start a walking program, for instance, try going for a medium-paced walk, about 20 minutes long, about four days a week. Each week start pushing yourself a little more — walk a little longer and a little faster, and add an extra day. Eventually, you want to be walking for about an hour on almost every day of the week. You can challenge yourself more by doing some light jogging on your walk, or pushing yourself to walk up some big hills.
Don’t let weather be an excuse. Outdoor exercise is enjoyable, but you can’t let rain, heat, or snow keep you from exercising. Join a gym or consider investing in some home gym equipment. A treadmill is a great choice if you like to walk or run. Elliptical machines, stationary bikes, and rowing machines are all great calorie-burning cardio exercise machines that can help keep you on track and consistent in your workouts.
Keep it interesting. For exercise to be an effective treatment for high cholesterol, you have to stick with your program. If you’re the kind of person who gets bored easily, alternate between sports, outdoor activities, gym work on machines, and classes.
Don’t overdo it. Remember that improving health and fitness with an exercise program should be a gradual change. It takes time for your body to be fit enough to keep up with strenuous exercise, and you’re likely to be sore, burned out, and frustrated if you push yourself too fast. It’s just too hard on your body to work at a level you’re not prepared for. So while it’s great to be enthusiastic about losing weight, be smart and slow about it. Don’t run five miles your first time out; build up to that pace. This approach will pay off with greater dividends in the long run.
A fitness routine at a health club or at home is a good way to track your progress and help control high cholesterol, but remember that every bit of extra activity helps. Being a more active person who parks farther away from the entrance of your workplace or the shopping mall, who takes the stairs instead of the elevator, and who chooses to go for a walk instead of watch TV makes it easier to shed pounds along with unhealthy high cholesterol.