Does Strength Training Lower Cholesterol: Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is both produced by the body and obtained from dietary sources. It is essential for various physiological functions, including the production of cell membranes and hormones. However, an excess of cholesterol in the bloodstream, specifically low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, is associated with the development of atherosclerosis—a condition characterized by the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries, which can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Conventional wisdom has long suggested that dietary changes and medications are the primary approaches to managing cholesterol levels. However, research has started to shed light on the potential benefits of strength training. Studies have shown that engaging in regular resistance exercises can have a favorable impact on cholesterol profiles, with some evidence pointing towards reduced levels of LDL cholesterol and increased levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, often referred to as the “good” cholesterol.

This apparent connection between strength training and cholesterol reduction may be attributed to several factors. Strength training can increase muscle mass and improve insulin sensitivity, which may, in turn, enhance the body’s ability to regulate cholesterol. Moreover, it can aid in weight management, reducing body fat and visceral adiposity, both of which are associated with high cholesterol levels.

Does Strength Training Lower Cholesterol

Which exercise is best to reduce cholesterol?

A person can combat high cholesterol by exercising regularly. Forms of exercise that help a person lower their total and LDL cholesterol levels include walking, running, cycling, and swimming. Often, these exercises can also help raise the levels of a person’s HDL cholesterol.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by brief rest periods. This form of exercise can be effective at improving cardiovascular fitness and managing cholesterol.

Strength Training: Resistance exercises, such as weightlifting, bodyweight exercises, and resistance band workouts, can increase muscle mass and metabolic rate, which may positively impact cholesterol levels.

Yoga: While not a traditional cardiovascular exercise, yoga can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. Chronic stress can negatively affect cholesterol levels, so stress reduction through practices like yoga can indirectly benefit cholesterol management.

Group Fitness Classes: Participating in group fitness classes like aerobics, spinning, or dance can be a fun way to get your heart rate up and improve your cholesterol profile.

Is cardio or strength training better for lowering cholesterol?

Aerobic exercise that’s repetitive and works multiple muscle groups, is the best exercise to reduce cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends exercising for at least 30 minutes five to seven times per week. “You can start slow and ramp up,” says Dr. Cho.

Cardiovascular Exercise (Aerobic Exercise):

  • Cardio exercises, such as brisk walking, running, cycling, and swimming, are excellent for improving cardiovascular fitness and reducing LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, often referred to as “bad” cholesterol.
  • Cardio workouts increase your heart rate and promote the circulation of blood, which helps remove excess cholesterol from the bloodstream.
  • These exercises can also raise levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol, which helps transport excess cholesterol to the liver for processing and removal from the body.

Strength Training (Resistance Exercise):

  • Strength training, which includes weightlifting and resistance exercises, can increase muscle mass and boost your metabolic rate. An increased metabolism may contribute to better cholesterol management by helping to regulate LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Building lean muscle through strength training can improve insulin sensitivity, which is linked to better cholesterol regulation and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Strength training can aid in weight management by reducing body fat, including visceral fat, which is associated with elevated cholesterol levels.

Can exercise reverse high cholesterol?

Exercise can improve cholesterol. Moderate physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol. With your doctor’s OK, work up to at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week or vigorous aerobic activity for 20 minutes three times a week.

Lowering LDL Cholesterol: Engaging in regular aerobic exercises like walking, running, cycling, and swimming can help lower LDL cholesterol, often referred to as “bad” cholesterol. These activities stimulate your cardiovascular system, prompting your body to break down and remove excess cholesterol from your bloodstream. As a result, your LDL cholesterol levels can decrease, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease.

Raising HDL Cholesterol: Aerobic exercises can also increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, known as “good” cholesterol. HDL cholesterol plays a crucial role in transporting excess cholesterol to the liver for processing and removal. By increasing your HDL cholesterol levels, you enhance the efficiency of this process, further protecting your heart.

Improving Insulin Sensitivity: Strength training or resistance exercises like weightlifting can increase muscle mass and improve insulin sensitivity. This enhanced insulin function can lead to better regulation of cholesterol in your body, potentially lowering LDL cholesterol levels.

Managing Weight: Exercise can aid in weight management, helping individuals shed excess pounds or maintain a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is linked to better cholesterol profiles, as excess body fat, particularly around the abdomen, is associated with high cholesterol levels.

How do bodybuilders avoid high cholesterol?

Typically, regular aerobic exercise increases HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and decreases LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. These effects vary depending on a person’s health, their diet, and the type of activity they do. However, high levels of training combined with a high fat ketogenic diet may produce different results.

Balanced Diet: Diet plays a crucial role in managing cholesterol levels. Bodybuilders typically consume a diet high in protein, but they must also pay attention to the quality and sources of their fats and carbohydrates. Opting for heart-healthy fats like those found in avocados, nuts, and olive oil can help improve the lipid profile. Reducing saturated fats, often found in red meats and processed foods, can be beneficial. Additionally, incorporating plenty of high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.

Adequate Hydration: Proper hydration is essential for overall health. Staying well-hydrated helps in the breakdown and removal of cholesterol from the body. Water also supports various bodily functions, including digestion and circulation, which indirectly impact cholesterol management.

Regular Cardiovascular Exercise: Bodybuilders often focus on strength training, but incorporating regular cardiovascular exercise is crucial for heart health. Cardio workouts, such as running, cycling, or swimming, can help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels. This balance contributes to a healthier cholesterol profile.

Can you be fit and have high cholesterol?

We all need some cholesterol in our blood to stay healthy, but too much can lead to serious health problems such as heart attacks and strokes. Anyone can have high cholesterol, even if you are young, slim, eat well and exercise. That’s because high cholesterol can be caused by different things, including your genes.

Genetic Predisposition: Genetics play a significant role in determining an individual’s cholesterol levels. Some people have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol, known as familial hypercholesterolemia. Even with an active and fit lifestyle, they may still have high cholesterol due to their genetic makeup.

Diet: Dietary choices have a profound impact on cholesterol levels. While exercise can improve cardiovascular health, a diet high in saturated and trans fats can elevate LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Being fit doesn’t necessarily counteract the adverse effects of a poor diet.

Body Composition: Being physically fit is not solely about having a low body fat percentage. Some individuals may have a high level of lean muscle mass and still have high cholesterol if other factors, such as diet or genetics, come into play.

Stress and Lifestyle: Stress and lifestyle factors, such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, can also affect cholesterol levels. Even a fit person who engages in these behaviors may have high cholesterol.

How quickly can exercise lower cholesterol?

It can take 3-6 months to reduce cholesterol by eating healthy and exercising, potentially longer for cisgender females. Some people may still need to take medications. Your cholesterol levels are directly tied to your heart health, which is why it’s so important to make sure they’re in a healthy range.

Short-Term Effects (Weeks to Months): With regular aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming, some people may begin to see improvements in their cholesterol levels within a few weeks to a few months. In the short term, exercise can have a positive impact by increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol, and reducing triglycerides, another type of blood lipid.

Long-Term Effects (Months to Years): For sustained, long-term improvements in cholesterol levels, it typically takes several months to a few years of consistent exercise. Engaging in regular cardiovascular exercise can lead to lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, often referred to as “bad” cholesterol, and continued improvements in HDL cholesterol and triglycerides. These changes contribute to a healthier lipid profile and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Frequency and Intensity: The frequency and intensity of exercise play a critical role. More intense workouts and more frequent sessions can yield faster results. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) or vigorous aerobic exercises may provide more rapid improvements compared to moderate-intensity workouts.

Dietary and Lifestyle Factors: Diet and lifestyle choices also influence the speed of cholesterol improvement through exercise. Combining regular physical activity with a heart-healthy diet that is low in saturated and trans fats and high in fiber can accelerate positive changes in cholesterol levels.

Should I lift weights with high cholesterol?

In addition to controlling cholesterol levels, strength training is also known to help maintain levels of other fats, such as triglycerides, that can contribute to poor health. Also found in the bloodstream, triglycerides can increase the risk of heart disease if they are too high.

Benefits of Strength Training: Strength training helps build lean muscle mass, which can boost your metabolic rate. This increased metabolism can contribute to better cholesterol regulation. Additionally, strength training can enhance insulin sensitivity, which plays a role in cholesterol management.

Weight Management: High cholesterol is often associated with being overweight or obese. Strength training can help with weight management by reducing body fat and increasing muscle mass. A healthy body composition is linked to better cholesterol profiles.

Complementary to Cardiovascular Exercise: While aerobic or cardiovascular exercise is effective at lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and raising HDL (good) cholesterol, strength training can complement these benefits. A balanced exercise routine that includes both forms of exercise can provide comprehensive cardiovascular health benefits.

Consultation with Healthcare Professional: If you have high cholesterol or other cardiovascular risk factors, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before starting or significantly changing your exercise routine. They can offer personalized guidance based on your specific health condition.

What are the 5 signs of high cholesterol?

You develop symptoms of heart disease, stroke, or atherosclerosis in other blood vessels, such as left-sided chest pain, pressure, or fullness; dizziness; unsteady gait; slurred speech; or pain in the lower legs. Any of these conditions may be linked to high cholesterol, and each requires medical help right away.

Family History: A significant risk factor for high cholesterol is a family history of the condition. If close relatives, such as parents or siblings, have high cholesterol, your risk may be elevated, making it important to monitor your cholesterol levels regularly.

Xanthelasma: Xanthelasma is a condition characterized by small, yellowish deposits of fat under the skin, typically around the eyes. While not exclusive to high cholesterol, these deposits can be a visual indicator of lipid abnormalities.

Corneal Arcus: Corneal arcus, or a white or grayish ring forming around the iris of the eye, can be associated with high cholesterol. It is more common in older individuals and is often a sign of cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels.

Chest Pain and Heart Disease: While not a direct sign of high cholesterol, chest pain (angina) and heart disease can result from the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. These conditions are more serious consequences of unmanaged high cholesterol.

Does Strength Training Lower Cholesterol


The evidence is compelling. Numerous studies have indicated that regular engagement in resistance exercises can lead to favorable changes in cholesterol profiles. These changes often include a reduction in the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the so-called “bad” cholesterol, and an increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, known as the “good” cholesterol. These alterations can help mitigate the risk of atherosclerosis, which is a primary contributor to cardiovascular diseases.

The mechanisms by which strength training exerts its influence on cholesterol are multifaceted. Building lean muscle mass not only enhances metabolic rate but also improves insulin sensitivity, allowing for more effective regulation of cholesterol. The reduction in body fat, especially visceral adiposity, plays a role in cholesterol management, as does the “afterburn effect” of strength training, which continues to burn calories even after the workout has ended.

However, it is crucial to emphasize that while strength training has shown potential in lowering cholesterol, it should not be viewed in isolation. Cholesterol management is a complex interplay of genetics, diet, physical activity, and sometimes medication. Strength training should complement a comprehensive heart-healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, regular cardiovascular exercise, and adherence to medical advice where necessary.

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