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Understanding Cholesterol and How Exercise Can Help

Can exercise affect cholesterol levels? In this article we look at the relationship between cholesterol and exercise.

By Mandra Taulu, Owner at Hunter Street (Sydney CBD)

What is Cholesterol?  

What is cholesterol? Cholesterol is an essential type of fat that is carried in the blood. Your body needs a small amount of cholesterol to function, but an imbalance between different types of cholesterol in the blood increases the risk of heart disease which is one of the leading chronic diseases in Australia today.*

According to the Australian Heart Foundation, there are an estimated 6, 573, 029 Australians 18+ living with high cholesterol in 2021.**

How to Lower Cholesterol 

So, how to lower cholesterol you might ask? Firstly, there are a number of reasons for high cholesterol,  diet and lifestyle factors being one, that we will focus on in this article. 

I hear you asking, ‘does exercise lower cholesterol’, exercise for lower cholesterol is one way to combat cholesterol caused by diet and lifestyle factors. 

What types of exercise will help lower cholesterol levels?

The data in 13 published investigations confirm the beneficial effects of regular physical activity and exercise activities. Firstly, let’s distinguish the difference between physical activity and exercise activity, as the terms are often used interchangeably. Physical activity essentially means moving the body. This can be achieved through incidental activities such as walking, mowing the lawn, cleaning the house etc. Exercise activity offers a more planned and structured approach, consisting of either aerobic exercises or resistance training, where the goal is to see progressive improvements.

As a society, we are becoming more and more sedentary. This is compounded by the residual effects of the recent lockdowns, resulting in an increase in people working from home, reducing the requirement of incidental physical activity, such as walking to the bus stop or train station, or walking to your colleague’s cubicle to ask a question. Therefore, a structured approach may be considered as a more appropriate solution.

Let’s start with aerobic exercise or cardio exercise. This may include but not limited to jogging, cycling or group exercise sessions. The key will be to select an option that is enjoyed promoting consistency and progression. It was reported on a meta-analysis of 51 interventions involving 12 weeks or more of aerobic exercise HDL (good cholesterol) increased by 4.6% and LDL (bad cholesterol) decreased by 5%. Over time, when intensity in aerobic exercise is increased during continuous effort, the effects upon HDL appear to become more consistent. Training 3 times a week for 30 mins starting at a 70% of maximal effort and progressing to 85% can have a significantly positive effect on cholesterol. This clearly answers and validates the question of: ‘Does exercise lower cholesterol?’

Resistance Training may offer a more accessible solution for less mobile individuals, as well as providing variety and alternatives for more mobile groups. Low to moderate intensity (<70% maximal effort) with greater volume (either more reps or sets) has proven exercise for lower cholesterol works better than high intensity (>85% maximal effort), low volume (less reps, less sets). It is highly recommended that resistance training supervised by a personal trainer to ensure appropriate intensities are met, and technique is guided to prevent risk of injury. Whereas aerobic exercise can be achieved independently.

The optimal solution to balancing cholesterol levels consists of regular physical activity and a combination of both aerobic exercise and resistance training.

Aging with vitality can really be as simple as moving more and implementing a structured exercise program into your lifestyle. Vision Personal Training Studios will set you up for success with a personalised goal session that will provide you with a balanced program, for sustainable results.

Contact us today for your complimentary consultation so we can help you get started on your health and fitness journey and be the healthiest and happiest version of you!

*CSIRO - Cholesterol Facts 

**News Medical Life Sciences

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