Lower Your Cholesterol With Regular Exercise
The word cholesterol derives from the Greek words chole-, meaning bile, and -stereos, meaning solid. The -ol suffix at the end is the organic nomenclature for an alcohol. In its pure form, cholesterol is a waxy steroid of fat. In the absence of any cholesterol, we would fall to bits because it is a structural component of cell membranes, responsible for maintaining optimum fluidity and permeability. It also acts as the starting point for the biosynthesis of bile acids, Vitamin D and steroid hormones. Too much cholesterol, however, and we are at risk of arterial damage and cardiovascular disease.
In most people, levels of cholesterol can be managed by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. People who are unable, or unwilling, to maintain this lifestyle may be prescribed a class of drugs called statins. Apart from saturated fats, other cholesterol-rich foods to watch out for are egg yolks, cheese, beef, poultry, pork, fish and shrimp. How does exercise influence cholesterol levels? By burning calories and facilitating weight loss, total cholesterol levels and other parameters of cardiovascular disease can be improved. Clinical research carried out in Brazil demonstrated that as little as a 5 per cent weight loss can improve the lipid profile and reduce inflammation in obese individuals.
Other studies show that exercise can change the size of lipoproteins, molecules that transport cholesterol in the blood. Low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), commonly referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’, has been linked with heart disease. High-density lipoproteins (HDLs), informally known as ‘good cholesterol’, can reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems. Even moderate exercise can lower LDL cholesterol by as much as 17 per cent in as little as 12 weeks. Conversely, HDL can increase by anywhere from 3 to 6 per cent. Studies in mice have indicated that exercise can speed up the rate that cholesterol is removed from the body by enhancing transport to the liver, from where it is broken down and expelled. Eight to twelve weeks of endurance exercise can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into the blood from the small intestine.
Summing up A surprisingly minor lifestyle change to incorporate moderate exercise can significantly reduce cholesterol and extend life span. Additionally, exercise stimulates the circulation and helps the heart to work more efficiently. It has other benefits, too. It aids sleep, strengthens bones and keeps joints and muscles supple. Exercise also relieves stress. Exercise does not have to be strenuous or involve purchasing expensive equipment or joining a health club. Start slowly and work your way up to exercising for half an hour every day. If you have any health problems, consult your doctor before embarking on any new exercise plan.