How to Lower Cholesterol with Exercise

By Michele C. Hollow @michelechollow
April 05, 2017

Want to learn how to lower cholesterol? Try walking three miles an hour or faster, cycling 10 miles an hour, playing doubles tennis, and even gardening. 

Want to learn how to lower your bad cholesterol? Start walking. The American Heart Association states that exercise — even low impact workouts — lowers cholesterol and promotes a healthy heart.

“Specifically exercise has been linked to a consistent increase in the HDL (that’s our good cholesterol) with moderate decreases in triglycerides and LDL (the bad cholesterol),” said Victoria Shin, MD, interventional cardiologist, and chair of cardiology at Torrance Memorial Medical Center.


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Shin recommends walking. If you haven’t exercised in a while, talk to your doctor. Also, start slow and gradually increase your pace. Try walking three miles an hour or faster, if you’re able to. Cycling 10 miles an hour, playing doubles tennis, and even gardening can be beneficial.

The trick is to choose a form of exercise that you’ll enjoy, perhaps a walk with a friend. A partner can motivate you to exercise.

How to lower cholesterol

Join a gym. Look for the cardio machines that will give you a great workout without putting too much stress on your joints. Ellipticals, arc trainers, stationary bicycles, and even treadmills are designed for low-impact workouts.

Sign up for a pool membership. The range of intensity is totally up to you when you do laps. Swimming puts next to no stress on your body because your body is supported by the water. You can also do other types of exercise in a pool. Walking is a good one because of the resistance from the water; it makes you exert more effort than if you are just walking outdoors. Plus, walking in a pool burns more calories than walking outdoors.

Take a yoga class. Yoga has a variety of benefits, from toning your body to calming your mind (which lowers stress).

Go cross-country skiing. This activity works on your arms and legs and puts almost no stress on your joints. It also helps you burn calories.

Take the stairs. Whenever you’re in a building with a choice of the stairs or an elevator, opt for the stairs. Go slow at first and build your pace over time. Think in moderation. You’re not going to climb to the top of the Empire State Building.

Enroll in a Tai Chi class. Tai Chi is a type of moving meditation. Like yoga, it stretches your body, places very little impact on your joints, and calms the mind.

Take a hike. Yes, this is a form of walking, but if you’re in the woods, you can hike up or down hills, which uses different leg muscles. It’s also great for your heart.

Climb a wall. Or go outside and climb a mountain. If you’re a beginner make sure you are with an expert. The benefit of rock climbing is that you go at your own pace. The movements tend to be slow, so it’s low-impact.

Turn up the music and dance. You can do this in the privacy of your own home, or grab a partner and take a ballroom dancing class.

Play golf. Yes, you read that correctly. Most people don’t equate exercise with golf. Golf, however, improves your endurance and muscle tone. If you play, ditch the cart and walk to the next hole.

Don't forget your diet

Expect to devote at least 30 minutes a day to improve your cholesterol numbers. Take into account that in addition to exercise, what you eat affects your cholesterol numbers. So, modify your diet by avoiding fried foods, microwave popcorn, and packaged food that contains hydrogenated fats, such as cookies and pastries. Limit the amount of red meat you eat, and trim all the fat away from the meat. It’s also a good idea to avoid full-fat dairy products.

In addition to lowering the bad cholesterol, exercise and a healthy diet have so many other cardiovascular benefits. “Exercise has been shown to keep bones strong, reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and to improve mood,” Shin said.


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March 02, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN