Exercise has many heart-healthy benefits. One way it reduces the risk of heart disease is by lowering LDL cholesterol and raising levels of HDL, the good cholesterol. Most people think you only get the heart-healthy benefits of exercise by doing aerobic exercise. Not so. Resistance exercise to lower cholesterol helps too. When you do a weight-training or strength workout, you’re doing your muscles and your heart a favor.
Cholesterol and Heart Disease: Weight-Training to Lower Cholesterol
Researchers at the West Virginia University School of Medicine did a meta-analysis of research studies looking at exercise to lower cholesterol levels. Based on the results of 29 different studies, they found that lifting weights for at least a month dropped LDL cholesterol by an average of five percent. Weight training also lowered triglyceride levels, fats carried in the bloodstream, by six percent. Both high LDL and triglyceride levels are linked to a greater risk of heart disease.
Resistance exercise to lower cholesterol isn’t as effective as making changes to your diet. Eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet to lower cholesterol reduces levels by as much as 15%, but combine strength training with a heart-healthy diet – and you may see even greater benefits.
What about Aerobic Exercise to Lower Cholesterol?
Aerobic exercise benefits lipid levels in two main ways. It lowers triglyceride levels and raises levels of HDL, the good cholesterol. The effects of aerobic exercise on LDL cholesterol vary with some studies showing minimal change in cholesterol levels – and only with vigorous exercise. Still, the benefits of a higher HDL and lower triglyceride level shouldn’t be underestimated.
Exercise, Cholesterol and Heart Disease: What Does This Mean?
If your diet to lower cholesterol isn’t bringing it down enough, and you don’t want to take medications until you’ve given lifestyle changes a try – do a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise at least three times a week. According to this study, strength-training alone can lower your risk of heart disease by 5%. Combine that with aerobic exercise to reduce triglycerides and raise HDL, and you’ll be doing your heart an even bigger favor. Don’t underestimate the power of exercise for a healthier heart.
Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 12, 205-244.
Club Industry. “Lifting Weights Can Reduce Cholesterol, Study Find”