Cholesterol and Exercise – How to Manage Your Numbers Naturally

Cholesterol and Exercise – How to Manage Your Numbers Naturally

(Evidence Based)

Does Exercise Help Manage Cholesterol?

Typically, we might hear that changing our dietary habits is the key to reducing bad cholesterol and to increasing good cholesterol. However, studies have shown that exercise also plays an important role in cholesterol management. 

Combining proper nutrition and regular exercise is the key to healthy cholesterol numbers. 

The research appears to disagree on whether the frequency or intensity of the exercise is important to improving cholesterol. However, the consensus lies in the duration of exercise.  

From Kodama and colleagues’ review of over 25 studies, all seem to agree that regular aerobic exercise, performed for a longer amount of time per session, is what will lead to improvement in overall cholesterol levels. 

What are HDLs and LDLs? 

Before we dive in, let’s take a moment to talk about some of the key terms we’ll be using. 

LDL – Low-Density Lipoprotein is what’s commonly termed “bad cholesterol.” High levels of this stuff are what put you at risk for cardiovascular complications

HDL – High-Density Lipoprotein is what we like to call “good cholesterol.” This is what carries bad cholesterol and triglycerides to the liver in order to get rid of them. 

Triglyceride – These come from the fats you consume. Like LDL, a high amount of triglyceride is also linked to cardiovascular disease

What Can Exercise Do for Cholesterol? 

A study on activity and cholesterol found that physically active individuals had lower levels of LDL and Triglyceride, and higher levels of HDL, than individuals who lived a sedentary (non-active) lifestyle. 

The levels of activity among the participants were mixed. This means that low, moderate, and high intensity exercises all made a difference. This is great news for people who are afraid to start exercising for fear they aren’t “fit enough” to exercise. If this is you, read our post on The Common Misconception of Getting Fit Before Joining a Gym

Exercises You Can You Do to Lower LDLs and Raise HDLs 

Regardless of our suggestions, you should choose an exercise that you can comfortably do for extended periods of time. It may also be necessary to have your doctor monitor how your heart responds to any new exercise routine.  

The American Heart Association recommends about 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week (that’s about 30 minutes a day if you’re working out 5 days a week), or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.  

You can mix and match different amounts of moderate and vigorous exercise. The idea is to aim for some amount of time in the AHA’s general ballpark and work your way to a level that feels good for you.  

Aerobics

Aerobic exercises include activities like jogging, running, swimming, bicycling, dancing, and others that elevate your heart rate. 

To effect cholesterol, one study suggests that an effective level of weekly exercise is approximately 17 to 18 miles of jogging at a moderate pace. If that’s too much, 11 miles is still effective but to a lesser degree.  

If 30 minutes a day sounds a bit vague, this jogging recommendation may give you a more focused perspective on how much exercise you should aim for.  

Low to Moderate Intensity Resistance Training 

Resistance training may involve the use of objects, like dumbbells, or your own body weight to improve your muscle strength, tone, mass, or endurance. Examples include lifting free weights, bench press, deadlift, squats, lunges, and more. 

A review conducted by Mann and colleagues investigates the effects of resistance training on cholesterol. Their findings suggested that low to moderate intensity workouts were just as effective as high-intensity workouts! More good news! 

This type of exercise can be done independently to improve cholesterol or be paired with aerobic exercise. 

Conclusions

Long story short: 

  1. Regular exercise, performed for extended periods of time, is the big game changer
  2. Cardio and resistance training are shown to improve cholesterol
  3. It’s more about quality than quantity

To learn from our Registered Dietician, Debbie James, about how to lower cholesterol with the right food choices, read the answers to her Q&As on low carb and low fat diets and cholesterol friendly foods. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today!

Sources

  1. “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids.” Www.heart.org, 2018, www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults.

     

  2. Kodama, Satoru, et al. “Effect of Aerobic Exercise Training on Serum Levels of High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol.” Archives of Internal Medicine, American Medical Association, 28 May 2007, jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/486847.

     

  3. Kraus, William E, et al. “Effects of the Amount and Intensity of Exercise on Plasma Lipoproteins: NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine, 2002, www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa020194#t=article.

     

  4. Mann, Steven, et al. “Differential Effects of Aerobic Exercise, Resistance Training and Combined Exercise Modalities on Cholesterol and the Lipid Profile: Review, Synthesis and Recommendations.” SpringerLink, Springer International Publishing, 31 Oct. 2013, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-013-0110-5.

     

  5. Skoumas, John, et al. “Physical Activity, High Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol and Other Lipids Levels, in Men and Women from the ATTICA Study.” Lipids in Health and Disease, BioMed Central, 12 June 2003, lipidworld.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1476-511X-2-3.
Is Fructose to be Feared?

Is Fructose to be Feared?

Question:

Someone told me that fructose wasn’t as bad as sugar because it comes from fruit. Does fructose come from fruit?

Thank you.

-Liz P.

Answer:

Sugars are generally single unit or dual unit compounds, called monosaccharides or disaccharides. Glucose (blood sugar) is a monosaccharide. Fructose (fruit sugar) is a monosaccharide. Sucrose (table sugar) is glucose plus fructose, making it a disaccharide. Lactose (milk sugar) is made of glucose and galactose, another disaccharide. All are natural sugars found in whole foods yet many are isolated as ingredients in processed food.

They all provide the same energy of 4 calories per gram and, in their isolated state, don’t offer any other nutrition. A whole fruit however, has water, fiber, vitamins and phytochemicals that a spoonful of table sugar does not. In that respect, fructose is better than sucrose. But the person that spoke to you may have been referring to the different sugars’ effects on the body.

Fructose is rarely found in isolation and according to the International Food Information Council Foundation its absorption is improved in the presence of glucose.  Harvard Health indicates that fructose isn’t used anywhere in the body other than the liver. This may be why it’s linked to chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.  When high fructose intake is due to its presence as an ingredient (namely high fructose corn syrup) it is often associated with inflammation, increased calories and fat deposition, according to Medical News Today.

So isolated sugars are not as good as the original sources. The best advice is to stick to the whole foods (fruit) and limit your added sugar consumption in general.

You may be interested in our previous articles Busting Sugar Myths: Fact or Fiction, and Which Fruits are Best to Eat?

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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Member Spotlight | The Reward is Worth the Effort

Member Spotlight | The Reward is Worth the Effort

There have been days where I really didn’t want to attend a class, but I convinced myself the reward was worth the effort”

Henry B.

LAF Member

Henry has been a member at LA Fitness for the last 10 months, and if you’re not sure how to take advantage of what the gym has to offer, then his story may be just what you need to read today.

Henry’s Story

“I had a regular fitness routine that included 6am brisk walks with weights, followed by various sit-up/push-up exercises. While this regimen kept my heart in good shape, the rest of the body was ‘soft’.

I did monitor my weight but stopped getting on the scale when I saw the number 215 pounds. This was about the time I separated from my wife of 20+ years, so I used this event as the beginning of the ‘transformation’.

I changed my eating habits and met a wonderful woman who was an LA Fitness member. She convinced me to ‘try the gym for a week’ to see how I would like it.

I was very skeptical at first, I mean, I knew how to work out so what benefit would a gym bring to me? We started with a daily exercise class routine, from Body Works Plus Abs, to Power Circuit, to Cardio Jam, to Boot Camp Conditioning. After the first week, I signed up for the annual membership and have been very active since. We have now added yoga to our routine and attend a class 6 days a week. My current weight is 165 pounds, and I feel fantastic!”

Like Henry, many people who want to make changes to their health and fitness don’t know how to navigate all that the gym offers. For him, what worked was to pretty much try everything! He eventually found a routine he enjoyed and customized his workout schedule to include his favorite exercises or classes.

The other major influence was the support of his gym companion. Having someone to attend class with can be a great motivator, can help keep you accountable, and can help push you through the last 5 minutes when your body would much rather quit.

What’s Next for Henry?

“The only next step is to maintain what we have built. Perhaps a role as a motivational speaker at LA Fitness?”

Henry, you may be closer than you think! Just by sharing your story, others who aren’t sure where to begin can look to your success story.

A Piece of Advice

If Henry could offer you a piece of advice from what he learned along his journey, he wants to emphasize discipline.

“My dad was an MP at a Marine air base, so I knew the meaning of discipline from a young age. As I have gotten older, this has become necessary to maintain the routine. There have been days where I really didn’t want to attend a class, but I convinced myself the reward was worth the effort. My wonderful woman agrees!”

Closing Thoughts

The major takeaways from Henry’s story are:

  1. Try as many classes as you can to find what works best for you
  2. Having a gym buddy can be a great advantage
  3. It is important to cultivate the discipline needed to maintain your new routine

Do you have an inspirational story you’d like to share with us? Email us at blog@lafitness.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming post!

For grammatical correctness, length, and clarity, minor edits – none of which alter the original or intended meaning – have been made to the quotes provided.

6 Ways to Decrease the Time You Spend Sitting

6 Ways to Decrease the Time You Spend Sitting

Over the course of a year, the average American spends about 293 hours behind the wheel and about 4,380 hours sitting down. That’s a lot of sedentary time! While it’s not always avoidable, leaving your car behind is one great way to get more active. Read on to learn how you can take opportunities today, and every day, to spend less time in the car and more time moving your body.

Ditch the Drive

 

 

Some places, you simply can’t walk to. Not unless you’re planning on an extended backpacking trip. However, if you’re taking the kids to the park or making a run to the store for an item or two, going by foot may be perfect! Grab the sunscreen (rain or shine), put on some comfortable shoes, and bring a hat or umbrella if you think you might need it.

 

 

 

 

 

 Remember that bike you bought a while back? The one gathering dust in storage or slowly becoming one with the grass in the yard? It’s time to find your helmet. Wherever is too far to travel on foot, is probably accessible by bicycling!

 

 

 

If you already spend a lot of time driving, when it’s time to do something fun for yourself or with the family, see if you can find some local events to attend. Maybe there’s a farmer’s market, a carnival, or a music festival nearby. If you know you’re going to drive anyway, choose something close to home so you can spend less time on the road and more time enjoying what you want!

 

When Not Driving Is Not an Option

You might live in a state with some serious weather, or because of some other factors, being without your car is nearly impossible. We have some tips for you too! If your health and ability permit, incorporating any amount of activity into your day will always be better than doing nothing at all. Take a look at some of these options for adding movement to your day:

 

 Take the time you spend waiting – waiting in line at the coffee shop, waiting to use the copy machine, waiting for your lunch order – to do some simple exercises. Done right, calf raises can set your legs on fire (in a good way), and they are subtle enough to do while standing in one place.

 

 

 

 Every so often, take a moment to stretch. Stretching will increase your blood circulation and give your muscles a break from whatever position you’ve been holding them in during the day. If your responsibilities require you to sit, hunch over, stand, or type all day, your body will thank you when you give it the opportunity to do something different.

Set an alarm on your watch, phone, or computer to remind you to move. You can go up and down the stairs a few times, walk around the block, or even around your desk a few times. If none of those are good options, do some exercises from your seat. You can try some seated crunches, arm or ankle rotations, or simply tighten and release your muscles to improve blood flow.

To learn more about how activity enhances your health, read our post on the Benefits of Living an Active Lifestyle, or get some nutrition tips by listening to our podcast on Fast Food and Your Body. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today!

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Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Protein?

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Protein?

Question:

Hello LA Fitness! It seems a lot of people are mentioning Chronic Kidney Disease. I hear that this can be from a number of reasons, including consuming too much protein. If you’re on a renal diet, or have kidney disease, or want to avoid getting CKD, how much protein is too much?
– Darque O.

Answer:

Whether you need to restrict protein or not should be determined by your nephrologist, depending on the stage of your renal disease. Note that the National Kidney Foundation (NKF)  states “Low protein and calorie intake is an important cause of malnutrition in chronic kidney disease1” and “There is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against routine prescription of dietary protein restriction to slow progression of chronic kidney disease.1

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that protein in the urine is a risk factor for developing kidney disease2. While one might assume that dietary protein load is the culprit, it’s more likely from impaired kidney filtration due to diabetes. The CDC recommends two dietary improvements: eating more fruits and vegetables while eating foods lower in salt2.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, preventing diabetes and high blood pressure helps to protect your kidneys from chronic kidney disease (CKD)3. The organization advises cutting back on salt and added sugars and suggests a DASH eating plan3. Protein is not mentioned.

References:

1) National Kidney Foundation. K/DOQI clinical practice guidelines for chronic kidney disease: evaluation, classification, and stratification. American Journal of Kidney Diseases. 2002; 39(2 suppl 1):S1–266. https://www.kidney.org/sites/default/files/docs/ckd_evaluation_classification_stratification.pdf Accessed 9.3.2019

2) Prevention and Risk Management. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/kidneydisease/prevention-risk.html December 21, 2017. Accessed 9.3.2019

3) Preventing Chronic Kidney Disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/prevention October 2016. Accessed 9.3.2019

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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