Exercise and blood lipids.





Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Hyperlipidemia
Professional Data: Hyperlipidemia


Cholesterol has received a great deal of press, and medical experts agree that high blood cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. But cholesterol is not an enemy. The body needs cholesterol and manufactures its own supply. Essential for life, cholesterol plays many important roles. Cholesterol, along with other fats, is a key component of cells membranes. The body uses cholesterol as the building material for hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. Bile salts, which break the fat we eat into small particles that can be digested, are composed largely of cholesterol. Cholesterol is our friend, something the body requires, in the right places and amounts.

LDL, or "low-density lipoprotein," is the blood lipid that causes the most concern. Compared to other lipoproteins, LDL has a much greater tendency to deposit cholesterol in the walls of blood vessels. Because LDL is the most plaque-forming form of cholesterol, the likelihood of developing atherosclerosis is directly related to the concentration of LDL in the blood.

HDL, or "high-density lipoprotein", does not form plaque and is thus called the "good" cholesterol. HDL picks up cholesterol from the tissues and sends it back to the liver for removal from the body. When HDL levels are where they should be, your body is disposing of cholesterol properly. When treating high blood cholesterol, health professionals try to bring the HDL level up as LDL comes down.

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine stated that although the amount is unknown, exercise is linked to a decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease, perhaps through lower blood lipids. Researchers recruited 111 over weight men and women with elevated blood lipids. These individuals were assigned to a control group or one of three exercise groups. These groups included a high amount, high intensity group, a low amount high intensity group, and a low amount low intensity group and maintained the exercise for 8 months. The blood lipids were measured in all three exercise groups as well as the control group. The results showed that the higher intensity workouts had the most beneficial effects on the blood lipids. In addition, higher amounts of exercise had lower lipid levels. The researchers concluded that, "the highest amount of weekly exercise, with minimal weight change, had widespread beneficial effects on the lipoprotein profile." 1


1. Kraus WE, et al. Effects of the Amount and Intensity of Exercise on Plasma Lipoproteins. NEJM. Nov 2002;347(19):1483-1492.