How Exercise Lowers Cholesterol: Best Workouts to Prevent Heart Disease

High cholesterol is just one of many health conditions that can put your heart at risk. Like high blood pressure, high cholesterol doesn’t usually show any symptoms. It’s dangerous because many people don’t know they have it until they suffer a heart attack or stroke.

There are some things you can do to prevent high cholesterol. But just because you already have it doesn’t mean it’s too late to “reverse” it. You can take steps to improve your numbers before you suffer major consequences.

Want to lower your cholesterol as quickly as possible — maybe even without medication? Exercise might be the solution you’re looking for. Here’s why.

What is the relationship between exercise and cholesterol?

Sports workout shoes

Sports workout shoes | grinvalds/iStock/Getty Images

Like fat, sugar, and sodium, cholesterol is actually an essential part of the many complex processes that keep you alive. But when too much of it starts building up in your bloodstream, it can stick to your artery walls and put you in danger of developing heart disease.

There are two types of cholesterol floating around in your blood: LDL, which is the type that tends to “hang out” in places it doesn’t belong, and HDL, the type that takes that extra LDL cholesterol out of your blood so it’s less likely to hurt you.

Studies have shown that exercise raises the amount of HDL cholesterol in your blood, which in turn lowers the amount of potentially harmful LDL.

This is partly because exercise promotes weight loss, which helps control cholesterol levels in your body. But working out might also change the size and composition of cholesterol particles, making them less likely to clog your arteries and endanger your heart.

Exercises to lower cholesterol naturally

Want to incorporate more exercise into your week, but aren’t sure where to start? Even walking can benefit your health. These are just a few exercises your heart will thank you for.

  • Weightlifting promotes muscle growth and fat loss, which could lead to improved cholesterol levels.
  • Yoga has been shown to improve cholesterol in some people.
  • Walking and jogging strengthen your heart and increase your chances of lowering cholesterol.
  • Doing chores around the house such as vacuuming, sweeping, and even outdoor gardening can encourage you to get moving even if you don’t think exercise is “for you.”

Experts warn that how often and how long you exercise might be more important than the specific exercises you choose when trying to lower your cholesterol. Do your best to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

Are there foods that lower cholesterol levels?

Oatmeal bowl

Oatmeal bowl | ArtCookStudio/iStock/Getty Images

When it comes to cholesterol, your diet can make a difference — either in a good or a not-so-good way. If your doctor has told you that you have high cholesterol, they’ve probably also suggested making a few changes to your diet.

The key to lowering your cholesterol with food is cutting out foods high in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and eating more foods that boost HDL (“good”) cholesterol. It might be easiest to start by incorporating more heart-healthy foods into your diet before you start cutting back on foods that can raise your cholesterol if your levels are already too high.

  • Oats — Oatmeal contains fiber, which lowers LDL cholesterol
  • Other whole grains — Whole grain bread, pasta, brown rice, barley, quinoa
  • Beans — These take a while to digest, which promotes weight loss and maintenance
  • Fatty fish — Salmon and tuna are both excellent sources of healthy fats, which benefit heart health
  • Nuts and seeds — Omega-3 fatty acids also benefit your heart.

Avoid foods high in saturated fat such as coconut oil, red meat, full-fat dairy products, and eggs.

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