Physical activity and regular exercise is a great way to maintain a healthy cholesterol level.
By maintaining a healthy cholesterol level, you are reducing your risk of developing conditions such as Heart Disease and Stroke.
Firstly, let’s learn exactly what cholesterol is.
Cholesterol is a fatty-like substance that is found in your blood and in every cell of your body. Interestingly, our body actually needs some cholesterol to keep cells and organs healthy. Our liver makes all the cholesterol our body needs. However, we can also get cholesterol from the foods we eat, especially meat, poultry, and dairy products.
There are two main types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol.
Too much LDL cholesterol in the blood may put you at risk for heart disease and other serious conditions. High LDL levels can cause the build-up of plaque, a fatty substance that narrows the arteries and blocks blood from flowing normally. This is called Atherosclerosis. This build up of plaque inside the blood vessel walls can cause serious complications such as Heart Attack, Stroke and Peripheral Arterial Disease, leading to death and disability.
The HDL cholesterol actually helps to clear the “bad” LDL cholesterol, to maintain healthy blood flow. Ideally we want a high level of HDL compared to LDL.
I like to think of high LDL as a traffic jam along the freeway. When there is too much LDL on the “freeway” (your arteries) the cars (your blood) move slowly and the freeway becomes blocked. This is a problem. Thankfully, along comes the HDL (traffic management) to clean up the freeway (arteries) so the cars (your blood) can flow freely again.
A silly analogy but you get the gist.
So, why is exercise so beneficial in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels?
Research is showing that regular exercise actually helps to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, and increase the “good” HDL cholesterol levels. When we exercise, certain enzymes are released which allow the body to transport the LDL’s from the blood to the liver. From there the LDL’s are converted to Bile and are digested or excreted. How amazing is the body!
Secondly, exercise also helps to maintain a healthy body weight. Being overweight tends to increase the risk of a higher LDL count, which can increase the risk of Heart Disease.
So how much exercise do you need?
The answer, it depends. This will always depend on the persons current activity levels, abilities and any other health concerns that may be present. However the World Health Organisation recommend at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, which equates to around 20 minutes per day. If you can exercise at least 20 minutes per day – you are on track to improve your long-term health!
Learn more here about how much exercise you should aim to be doing.