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Aurora Health Series: Can Exercise Help your Cholesterol?

Thank you to Aurora Health Care for providing this content to help you live well!


By Robert Panther, MD 

Are you one of the 102 million American adults who have high cholesterol? There’s a pretty good chance you or someone you care about has high cholesterol. 

About 41 percent of us have a total cholesterol level above 200 mg/dL, which is considered above healthy levels. More than 35 million adults with high cholesterol have a level of 240 mg/dL or higher. That puts them at high risk for heart disease.

Do you have high cholesterol you’d like to reduce for your health (and your longevity)? One effective approach is simple: Exercise.

Positive Effects of Exercise

Taking up a regular fitness activity can have a positive effect on your triglycerides and HDL. Triglycerides are a type of fat in your blood that your body uses for energy. At higher levels, they can contribute to coronary artery disease. HDL is your good cholesterol.

Exercise doesn’t do much to improve your LDL (bad cholesterol). Your best bet for reducing your LDL is a low-cholesterol diet and losing weight.

Before you start an exercise program, check with your health care provider to make sure.

What Exercise Is Recommended?

The good news is that a number of different physical activities can help you control your cholesterol. The main thing is to do your chosen activities regularly.

  • Aerobics — Try running, walking briskly, hiking or cycling (spinning or regular outdoor bike). How about swimming, dancing, kickboxing or an elliptical or a step machine?
  • Free weights or a weight machine — Circuit training is effective.

How Much Exercise Should You Get?

  • Don’t overdo it to start. Try 15 to 20 minutes at a time to start.
  • Work up to about 30 minutes of activity five or six days a week.

During your activity, you should aim for a moderate to somewhat hard effort. You should still be able to carry on a conversation without being too out of breath. If you can still sing, you should increase your effort.

A reminder: Stay hydrated when you exercise. Even when it’s cool during your workout, you still need to drink.

Added Benefits

Along with the cholesterol reducing benefits, exercise can help lower your blood pressure. It can help reduce your risk for stroke and heart attack.

If you have concerns about your cholesterol, visit with your health care provider. Along with exercise, a prescription medication may be recommended to control high cholesterol.our


Robert Panther, MD is a board-certified cardiologist at the Aurora Health Center in Summit, WI. To learn more about Dr. Panther, go to To schedule an appointment with Dr. Panther, call 262-434-5000.

The information presented in this article is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem. 


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