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Exercise to Lower Cholesterol

Have you been told your cholesterol levels are too high? Looking to explore healthy lifestyle options to reduce cholesterol? Exercise has been found to impact cholesterol levels and reduce cardiovascular disease. Firstly it’s important to understand the role of HDL and LDL cholesterol.

What is HDL and LDL cholesterol?

When our GP requests cholesterol tests they are looking at our ‘lipid profile’. The common method of reporting is total cholesterol levels, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and triglycerides.

Increased levels of LDL indicate surplus lipids in the blood, which in turn increase the risk of cardiovascular complications. The role of HDL is to transport lipids back to the liver for recycling and disposal. Therefore, high levels of HDL cholesterol are an indicator of a healthy cardiovascular system. Triglycerides in plasma are derived from fats eaten in foods or from other energy sources. An excess of triglycerides in plasma is associated with cardiovascular disease. Ultimately we need our HDL to be higher than LDL.

The most commonly used measure of cholesterol is arguably ‘total cholesterol’, a measure that includes LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. However, given the different effects of LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol on health, total cholesterol can be a misleading metric. So make sure you understand the splits of your HDL and LDL levels when looking at your total cholesterol levels.

The most effective exercise on LDL and HDL

The results of a review exploring 13 evidence based published investigations on the effects of aerobic exercise, resistance training and combined aerobic and resistance training on cholesterol levels and the lipid profile. The following exercise was found to be the most effective

Patient group

Cholesterol targets

Exercise recommendations


Maintain low LDL cholesterol and triglycerides; increase HDL cholesterol

Physical activity of 30 minutes or more 5 times a week. Exercise was a mixture of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and low-intensity resistance training.

Elevated cholesterol

Reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides; increase HDL cholesterol

Physical activity of 30 minutes or more 5 times a week. Exercise was a mixture of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and moderate - high resistance training.

Elevated cholesterol (dyslipidaemia) and limited mobility (disabled, elderly populations, etc.)

Reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides; increase HDL cholesterol

Increase physical activity that is safe for the individual. Exercise was based on resistance training focussed on major muscle groups and maintained at moderate intensity to the individuals health.


Simple ways to incorporate exercise into your weekly schedule based on the

  • Ring a friend and organise a walking ‘brisk’ date. The aim is to break into a sweat and elevate your heart rate.
  • Look up your local Park Run event, they are free and support you to achieve 5klm walk / run
  • Join your local bootcamp or gym
  • Meet a personal trainer who can create you a safe resistance training routine based on your current health
  • Gardening, mowing your lawn or building garden beds are an awesome way to get outside in nature and exercise
  • Hiking, there are many hiking tracks for all levels. Check out your local trails!
  • Exercise physiologists, if you suffer chronic illness and need to begin simple movements talk to your GP about a referral to support a safe and effective exercise routine
  • Aqua aerobics or walking laps of a swimming pool – movement for individuals with chronic health require support and gentle approaches. Getting in the pool and walking laps can be a great way to help with simple exercise
  • Pilates
  • Check out our little workout you can do at home!

Long term integration

We are always encouraging our clients to create long term health philosophy into their life to overcome chronic health issues. Exercise is one important aspect of well being, it gets us moving, outside and engaging in society. If you need help and support to explore your personal well being goals book an appointment today!


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