Exercise for Cholesterol Management – Best Practices

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This week we continue our discussion about cholesterol, as September is National Cholesterol Education Month.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 71 million US adults (~35% of the population) are living with elevated total cholesterol (>200 mg/dL). It is well documented that elevated total cholesterol has been associated with greater risk for coronary heart disease and many adults are being prescribed statin drugs to lower their cholesterol levels. Statins come with a wide range of side effects, and their use should be limited if possible. Luckily, regular exercise has been shown to reduce total cholesterol and improve LDL and HDL profiles.

A recent review article published in the journal Sports Medicine in 2014 evaluated physical activity to determine the best types of exercise for cholesterol management. Specifically, they evaluated resistance training and differing levels of aerobic training. Findings indicate the following exercise recommendations based upon current lipid profile:

Patient group Cholesterol targets Exercise recommendations
Healthy Maintain low LDL cholesterol and triglycerides; increase HDL cholesterol Increase physical activity to >30min/day 5times weekly; prolonged moderate-intensity aerobic exercise at 70–80% Hrreserve, combined with low-intensity resistance training at 50% 1RM
Elevated cholesterol (dyslipidaemia) Reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides; increase HDL cholesterol Increase physical activity to >30min/day 5times weekly; prolonged moderate-intensity aerobic exercise at 70–80% HRreserve, progressing to 85 % HRmax, combined with moderate- to high-intensity resistance training at 75–85% 1RM
Elevated cholesterol (dyslipidaemia) and limited mobility (disabled, elderly populations, etc.) Reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides; increase HDL cholesterol Increase physical activity as much as is feasible; resistance training progressing from 50 to 75% in major muscle groups, can be incorporated into circuit sessions and maintained at moderate intensity

This review is very exciting and should give hope to the millions of adults living with high cholesterol levels. The trainers and therapists at Vita Physical Therapy & Fitness are highly skilled and will help you to get started on the right exercise program for your health and wellness goals. Vita Staff for more information about our staff.

Written by Colleen Baughn, OTR, CES

Source: Mann, Steven, Christopher Beedie, and Alfonso Jimenez. Differential effects of aerobic exercise, resistance training and combined exercise modalities on cholesterol and the lipid profile: review, synthesis and recommendations.”Sports Medicine 44.2 (2014): 211-221.

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