Research shows that high levels of cholesterol in the body can lead to heart disease and significant health problems. Exercise and cholesterol levels have been linked together as a way to reduce the negative effects of cholesterol while improving the benefits. Studies have found that consistent, vigorous exercise can help move the negative lipoproteins found in cholesterol through the body, while increasing the amount of positive lipoproteins in the bloodstream.
Cholesterol, a fatty substance that is necessary for the body to build cell membranes, form bile acids, and produce sex hormones, has two major forms. The “bad” cholesterol is called low-density lipoproteins or LDL cholesterol, which is made up of large, fluffy particles of proteins. LDL cholesterol is considered negative because the particles can become lodged in heart linings and blood vessels, slowing down the flow of blood and making it difficult for the heart to function properly. Positive cholesterol is known as high-density lipoproteins or HDL, and it consists of small, dense protein particles that actually help clear cholesterol from the bloodstream so it can be used by the body.
People who are overweight generally do not get adequate amounts of exercise and cholesterol levels can become dangerous. One way that exercise and cholesterol work together is through the stimulation of enzymes that move LDL cholesterol out of the blood stream and into the liver where it is converted to bile. Frequent exercise ensures these enzymes help the body excrete LDLs before they can become stuck in blood vessels, Ut can also increase the size of the protein particles so that they flow more easily through the bloodstream.
Another link between exercise and cholesterol has to do with the creation of HDL particles in the body. High intensity exercise has been found to increase the amount of HDL cholesterol in the bloodstream, which is necessary for several bodily functions. HDL particles also sweep out cholesterol from blood vessels, which keeps the heart and circulatory system working appropriately.
Moderate exercise and cholesterol do not have a very strong correlation, as LDL levels have not been shown to be lowered and HDL levels do not rise. The greatest connection between exercise and cholesterol change comes through vigorous or high-intensity exercise that is performed often. Most studies have found that the heart rate should generally be at or above 75% of the maximum threshold during exercise and cholesterol levels are affected the most with 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per day.