Photo Credit: Getty Images
What kind of results can you expect? Regular aerobic exercise can increase HDL levels up to 22 percent and decrease triglyceride levels up to 37 percent, according to the ACSM. If you burn 1,500 or more calories per week doing aerobic exercise, you could reduce your total cholesterol levels by 10 to 20 percent at the end of 16 weeks, the American Council on Exercise notes.
Some studies indicate that working out with hand weights, resistance tubing or bands, or doing muscle-strengthening exercises such as sit-ups, push-ups and leg squats, may help lower cholesterol levels and improve the ratio of total to HDL cholesterol. What is known for sure is that resistance training just a few days a week improves your overall muscle strength and endurance, and that means you may be more likely to exercise without getting winded or tired as easily.
To maximize benefits while minimizing risks of overuse, look for a program that includes 8 to 10 different exercises that work your upper and lower body, as well as the chest and back. Push-ups, biceps curls and triceps extensions are good for upper body; abdominal crunches and torso twists strengthen the core; and leg presses, hamstring curls, squats and lunges are great to tone your lower body. People under age 50 should aim to do 8 to 12 repetitions using enough resistance to cause fatigue. People over age 50 should do more repetitions (10 to 15) with slightly less weight or resistance to minimize the risk of injury, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.