How Does Exercise Lower Cholesterol?

How Does Exercise Lower Cholesterol?

Staff Writer
6 minute read

How Does Exercise Lower Cholesterol?

High cholesterol levels in the blood can lead to hypercholesterolemia, which presents an increased risk of coronary heart disease. 

Health experts advise that a healthy lifestyle with exercise and a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is essential for people with high cholesterol. But how exactly does exercise lower your cholesterol? 

These are the points that we are going to tackle in this article:

  • The cholesterol in your body

  • Does exercise lower cholesterol? how?

  • Exercises to reduce help manage cholesterol levels

  • How to stay consistent with your exercise to lower your cholesterol levels?

  • Other lifestyle changes to consider

Keep reading to find out!

The Cholesterol In Your Body

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that your body uses to build cell membranes, body hormones, and vitamin D. Your blood cholesterol is derived from two sources: the food you eat and your liver. 

Lipoproteins are spherical particles that carry cholesterol and other lipids through your bloodstream. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL) are the two most well-known lipoproteins (HDL).

The Good and Bad Cholesterol

Good cholesterol is known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL). It removes cholesterol from the bloodstream. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the “bad” cholesterol.

LDL (“bad") cholesterol can contribute to the formation of plaque buildup in the arteries (atherosclerosis). This is linked to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

If your total cholesterol level is high because of a high LDL level, you may be at higher risk of heart disease or stroke. To lower your risk of these diseases, your LDL levels should be lower than 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl).

But, if your total cholesterol level is high only because of a high HDL level, you’re probably not at higher risk. The ideal level of HDL in the blood is 50 milligrams per deciliter.

How Does Exercise Lower Cholesterol? 

Exercise increases HDL production.

Exercising for just one hour each week is enough to significantly increase HDL. The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, a weekly commitment of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity is recommended.

Exercising regularly can prevent the LDL (bad) cholesterol from building up in the blood and causing blockages in the arteries. Even just walking for 30 minutes five days a week can significantly increase your HDL levels. You can also do some running, swimming, or biking. 

Exercise strengthens your muscles. 

Weight training is one of the best ways to maintain muscle strength and reduce the risk of injuries, which can increase your cholesterol levels. Exercising regularly can help prevent muscle mass loss, which often occurs as we age. 

Exercise supports weight reduction.

Research found that regular exercise is associated with lower cholesterol levels, partly because of the weight reduction that often results from it. Furthermore, a person's LDL ("bad") cholesterol level decreases by roughly 0.8 milligrams per deciliter for every kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) they shed.

Exercise boosts the immune system.

Exercising regularly can help to boost your immune system, which can have a positive effect on your cholesterol levels. 

To maximize the immune-boosting effects of exercise, working out for 60 minutes or less at a moderate to vigorous level is best. If you practice this regularly, you will see cumulative benefits to your immune and metabolic systems. 

Exercises To Reduce and Manage Cholesterol Levels


Increasing your activity level on a bike can help you reduce your bad LDL cholesterol levels.

According to research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, those who commute to work by bike are far less likely to suffer from high cholesterol.  Additionally, the researchers noted that bicycling can potentially reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.


Taking brisk walks regularly has several positive effects on health. In one study, participants who walked for an hour five days a week had lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL).


Running regularly is also beneficial to one's health. It can assist people in becoming in shape, losing weight, and improving their mental health. Any amount of running is associated with a 27% reduction in the risk of death from all causes. Running a longer distance may help lower LDL cholesterol as well.

Resistance Training

Resistance training is a method of building muscle by causing the muscles to contract against an external force. Weight training is another common name for resistance training.

Examples of typical resistance training routines include pushups, stomach crunches, weightlifting (chest presses, deadlifts, or curls), and squats.

According to a review published in 2014, premenopausal women who participated in supervised resistance training sessions experienced a decrease in their total and LDL cholesterol levels for 14 weeks. The resistance training was performed three times weekly for forty to fifty minutes per session.

How To Stay Consistent With Your Exercise To Lower Your Cholesterol Levels?

Alternating between less-intense and more-intense workout sessions may help you maintain your routine. And if you've been out of practice for a while, it's good to ease back into it by doing moderate exercise for just 15 minutes a day for starters. 

Here are some strategies for maintaining your motivation to stay consistent with your exercise routine:

Set achievable objectives.

The likelihood of giving up on a fitness program increases if the person anticipates rapid results, such as significant weight loss or a decrease in cholesterol levels.

Share the experience of working out with others. 

Having the encouragement of loved ones is a powerful motivator. Many fitness-related apps also facilitate communication with other people who share your interests in physical activity.

Always make time for exercise. 

Do exercises in your living room if you have no time to go to the gym or if bad weather keeps you indoors.

Other Lifestyle Changes To Consider

Increasing your HDL levels is possible through exercise and other lifestyle adjustments. Exercise alone is not enough. Here are more lifestyle modifications that you must consider.

  • Giving up cigarettes

  • Maintain a healthy body weight

  • Select foods higher in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive, peanut, and canola oils, nuts, seafood, and other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Avoiding or limiting alcohol consumption to no more than three to five drinks in a week

  • Reducing stress

  • Getting a good amount and quality of sleep

Summary on How Exercise Lowers Cholesterol

Exercising regularly can help to lower your cholesterol and boost your overall health. It’s important to remember that not all types of exercises are created equal, so make sure you try various activities to find the ones that suit you best. 

From walking, running, and cycling to weight training, there are plenty of ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine and help to lower your cholesterol.

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