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Comprehensive Guide to Cholesterol & Exercise for Beginners

Posted Sep 06 2013 5:00am


Understanding the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Cholesterol


Being that September is Cholesterol Awareness Month I have dedicated this week to all things cholesterol.  If you have no idea what your total cholesterol level is or if you have high cholesterol than you should go call your doctor ASAP and find out.  Here’s the nitty gritty of all things cholesterol!


Cholesterol is a fat like substance that occurs naturally in the liver.  It is not an essential nutrient as your liver is your very own cholesterol making factory.


How is it made you ask? From the breakdown of carbohydrates and proteins!


It’s NOT found in fruits, veggies, grains or anything else that non-animal related.  Any food containing animal products (milk, eggs, meat, etc.) contains cholesterol.  For example, eggs are used in the making of bread, pasta etc so they may contain cholesterol.



Cholesterol is like a package made up of fat and protein.  Depending on how the package is made up determines if it’s good or bad.


TC - Total cholesterol only tells us the amount of cholesterol and not whether it’s good or bad.


LDL – Low Density Lipoprotein or the “bad guys” is primarily made up of cholesterol.


VLDL – Very Low Density Lipoprotein or the “bad guys sidekick” is primarily made up of triglycercides.


HDL – High Density Lipoprotein or the “good guys” is primarily made up of proteins.


TG - Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the bloodstream.


Cholesterol is used by the body for a number of functions.  (This is not a comprehensive list.)

  1. Cholesterol is a component of testosterone and estrogen that helps determine metabolism.
  2. It’s essential to digesting fat.
  3. It helps with blood clotting.  This plays a factor in the blockage of arteries.


Cholesterol Chart



Having low HDL is a risk factor for coronary artery disease (CAD), as well as having high LDL.  LDL is part of the deposit in the arteries, known as plaque, that blocks an artery causing a heart attack.  HDL acts like a sheriff (the good guys) rounding up the LDL in the arteries and removing it.


EXERCISE! Cardio or aerobic exercise (running, walking, biking, elliptical, etc.) combined with weight training.  Research from the International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism and International Sports Medicine Journal found that the positive effect from losing fat and gaining muscle significantly improves HDL. Also, a fancy enzyme in the body named lipase increases.  This is important because lipase helps turn fat into the good guys, HDL.


Here’s the disclaimer: As always consult with your physician or medical professional before beginning any new exercise program.
For beginner exercisers it’s all about the total volume of exercise.  As with any program it should be progressive and relative or individualized.

Exercise Recs for Cholesterol


The personal trainers at Body By Brent in Doylestown, Central Bucks County specializes in designing exercise programs for people trying to lower their cholesterol, lose weight and those new to exercise.


References Snyder, W. et al. (2011). “Lipids and Health: A Guide for the Fitness Professional.” ACSM Certified News. 21:12, 3-4. Altena, T.S. (2012). “Cholesterol Facts: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” Tseng, M.L. et al. (2013). “A Simple Method for Increasing Levels of High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol: A Pilot Study of Combination Aerobic- and Resistance-Exercise Training.” Int J of Sport Nutrition & Ex Met. 23, 271-281. Filho, M.L. et al. (2013). “The effects of 16 weeks of exercise on metabolic parameters, blood pressure, body mass index and functional autonomy in elderly women.” Int SportMed J. 14.

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Owner, Exercise Physiologist at Body By Brent LLC
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