Will Exercise Help Me Lower My Cholesterol?

How Exercise Can Help Physical activity can have a positive effect on your cholesterol levels and the health of your heart. For instance, it can do the following:

  • raise your HDL level - known as the good cholesterol
  • lower your triglyceride level
  • burn calories to help you maintain a healthy weight
  • reduce high blood pressure
  • strengthen your heart
  • help your body use insulin, which decreases your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and blood vessel disease
  • help keep you off medicine
  • help you to have a lower dose of medicine or help it work better
  • make you feel better in general

Like a heart-healthy diet, a program of regular physical activity is essential to lowering blood cholesterol. It should be part of every cholesterol treatment plan. In fact, in its 2001 May guidelines, the National Cholesterol Education Program puts renewed emphasis on them. A healthy diet is one part of what it calls therapeutic lifestyle changes, or TLC. Exercise can improve your HDL and triglyceride levels. It can also strengthen your heart and help to control high blood pressure, diabetes, and weight gain, all of which are risk factors for heart disease. It may improve your cholesterol and triglyceride levels enough that you don't need medicine or that you can reach healthy levels using a lower dose of medicine.


What Can Make This Easier?

If you haven't been exercising on a regular basis, the idea of starting may make you wince. You may find it easier to be motivated to get up and move by keeping in mind all the good news about exercise. For instance, you can start at whatever level of intensity is right for you, then build on it as your fitness improves. You can choose activities that you truly enjoy - even involve your friends and family in your efforts. Plus, the more active you become, the more active you will want to be. Over time, increased activity will become part of your daily routine.

The payoff from exercise is big. Not only can exercise improve your cholesterol levels and the health of your heart, it can have other positive effects, too. For instance, exercise may improve your mood, give you more energy, and help you sleep better. Keeping these benefits in mind may help you get - and keep - moving.


What Do I Need to Do?

Your doctor and an exercise specialist can help you develop a program of physical activity that fits your:

  • level of fitness
  • heart health
  • overall health
  • interests
  • age

In the section How Do I Increase My Exercise?, you can learn how to plan and stick with an exercise routine that's right for you.