Exercises to lower bad cholesterol

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), lack of physical activity causes high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol. That’s why medical professionals recommend exercising as stepping stones to combat bad cholesterol.

Exercising is generally good for the heart. It not only strengthens heart muscles but also prevents heart disease risk factors by maintaining healthy body weight, managing cholesterol levels, and reducing blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

How Does Exercising Lower Bad Cholesterol?

Exercising can stimulate lipoprotein lipase (LPL). These enzymes eliminate bad cholesterol from the blood and into the liver, where it can be processed and removed from the body. It can also increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol levels, which helps transport bad cholesterol away from the arteries to the liver.

Additionally, exercising improves weight management. When one exercises, they burn more calories and increase metabolism, which helps eliminate fatty bad cholesterol. This can result in improved insulin sensitivity, which is also found to help lower bad cholesterol levels.

Exercising can also enhance blood circulation. This consequently prevents atherosclerosis, the buildup (called “plaque”) of cholesterol, fats, and other substances on and in the artery walls. This narrows arteries and blocks blood flow. When this bursts, it can lead to erectile dysfunction, limb loss, heart attack, stroke, vascular dementia, and even death.

Combining exercise with a healthier diet and lifestyle choices is recommended to maximize the impact. For example:

  • For your food, opt for low-fat, low-cholesterol, high-fiber meals. Apart from fiber, which can reduce the amount of dietary cholesterol, get enough intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which can boost our body’s good cholesterol, and fruit and vegetables that are high in sterols, which can help lower bad cholesterol.


  • For healthier lifestyle choices, avoid high consumption of alcohol, smoking, and gaining too much weight, which can all increase the risk of high cholesterol levels.

However, there are instances when lifestyle changes aren’t enough to manage high cholesterol levels. In such cases, seek medical advice. Your primary care doctor will typically suggest statins, the first-line medications to lower bad cholesterol.

Be sure to do your due diligence in adhering to your doctor’s prescription and learn about your medication. Start by understanding the Comprehensive Cholesterol Medication Overview. If this is hard to digest, always consult your doctor or seek another medical professional.

Exercises to Lower “Bad” Cholesterol

The ideal exercises for lowering bad cholesterol are those that can increase your heart rate. According to AHA, the goal is to reach 50-85% of your maximum heart rate, which can be calculated by subtracting your age from 220. At first, aim for 50% of your maximum, especially for beginners, then gradually build up to 85 % of your maximum.

Traditionally, we can count our pulse by lightly pressing two fingers (not the thumb) on the area of our wrist below the thumb. Count the beats felt for 30 seconds, then multiply by two to get your heartbeat per minute. Alternatively, use smartphone apps, smartwatches, or fitness bands to measure heart rate faster.

Here are some exercises that can increase your heart rate and eventually lower bad cholesterol.

Walking, Brisk Walking, or Jogging

Aim to spend at least 150 minutes weekly walking, brisk walking, or jogging, ideally with moderate intensity. While these cardiovascular activities are beneficial, opt for a workout suitable for stamina, weight, and joint health.

One study showed that the type of cardio activity didn’t matter but the amount of exercise. It concluded that running three miles required the same amount of energy as walking for 4.3 miles (approx. 7 km) at a brisk pace.


Bike riding is recommended for those with joint problems. It’s more low-impact than jogging but expends about the same energy as the latter. It doesn’t only lower cholesterol but also improves outcomes for hip osteoarthritis.


For those who aren’t into cardio, especially if it puts a toll on their body, the slowness of yoga can solve high cholesterol issues just as effectively. It also helps with flexibility, mobility, and mental health.


Swimming is another therapeutic workout that can also lower cholesterol levels. Taking a few laps in the pool means working your entire body. According to Harvard, an average 57-lb (57-kg) woman can burn about 180 calories for 30 minutes of recreational swimming and about 300 calories for vigorous swimming.

Resistance/Strength Training

The AHA also recommends resistance or strength training for lowering cholesterol levels and achieving optimal health. According to fitness experts, repetition, not increased weight, is the key to greater cholesterol-lowering benefits.

More importantly, don’t leap straight to the weight rack. This is particularly true if you’ve been living a sedentary lifestyle and have the risk of developing heart disease. Instead, the first thing to do is consult a doctor. If you’ve got a yes, consider meeting a fitness trainer for professional guidance.

Final Thoughts

Regular physical activities are among the lifestyle changes one with high cholesterol levels needs to do. It’s recommended to do so with other healthier habits such as a fiber-rich, low-cholesterol diet, avoiding smoking and alcohol consumption, and medical adherence. It’s equally important to seek medical and professional help for a more tailored and effective approach.