Physical activity can lower bad cholesterol (LDL), raise good cholesterol (HDL), and lower the risk for heart disease in adults, according to a study published in the journal Atherosclerosis in December 2015. That makes exercise a key element in an overall treatment plan that also includes diet and possibly medication, says Shel Levine, MS, associate professor of clinical exercise physiology at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti.
Research has shown that riding a bicycle is a safe and effective aerobic exercise for burning calories and lowering bad cholesterol — and one of the main benefits of cycling is that it can become part of your daily routine without disrupting your schedule. Indeed, if you can, experts recommend riding your bicycle to work or while running errands, as opposed to driving or taking public transportation. However, if you don’t feel comfortable riding a bike on the street, a brisk ride on a stationary bike will do the trick as well. Levine advises starting slowly, taking short rides on flat terrain (or at a low incline setting on a stationary bike). Then, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise five days a week, Levine says. Once you’re conditioned, step it up to 45 to 60 minutes on most days, he suggests.
How Exercise Lowers Cholesterol
Physical activity is effective at lowering bad cholesterol levels because exercising muscles requires energy, explains Karol Watson, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine and cardiology, co-director of the UCLA Program in Preventive Cardiology, and director of the UCLA Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Health Program. “Sugar (glucose) is the muscle’s preferred energy source, but once the glucose is depleted, it will start burning fat for energy,” she explains. And when fat is used for energy, it can lower LDL and triglycerides, another fat found in the bloodstream and in food. If you have high cholesterol, try these exercises to get your numbers under control