Factor in Fitness to Fight High Cholesterol

Exercising regularly can make you feel better in numerous ways, including:

  • Giving you more energy during the day and helping you sleep better at night
  • Boosting your mood and thinking power
  • Helping you control your weight and simply have more fun
  • Controlling high cholesterol.

It's not just aerobics that helps the heart, either. Researchers have long known that aerobic exercise (such as running, swimming or brisk walking that gets your heart pumping faster) helps lower total cholesterol and raise high-density lipoproteins (HDL, or "good" cholesterol). But newer research indicates that strength training and mind/body stretching-type exercises may also help keep your cholesterol levels in healthy zones.

The aerobic advantage

Any exercise that gets your heart rate up, makes you breathe a little faster, and brings color to your face and sweat to your brow can help your cholesterol levels. Aerobic exercise may lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins (LDL, or "bad" cholesterol) slightly, but its best effects tend to be in raising HDL cholesterol and lowering triglycerides.

In fact, just one aerobic workout can produce an increase in HDL levels and a decrease in triglyceride levels. These changes last for only up to 48 hours or so, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), so you need to exercise at least every other day.

Aim to burn off an extra 1,200 to 2,000 calories per week, or about 300 to 500 calories per exercise session. For most people, this translates to doing about 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity activity daily - including brisk walking or walk-jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing, or even housework such as vacuuming or mopping. You don't have to do it all at once; if you can't find a long block of time, do three to six 10-minute spurts of exercise.

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