Triglycerides are amongst the most common types of fat there is in your body. You get them from eating fatty foods like butter or oil, and help your body store energy in case it needs it at any given time.
However, much like cholesterol, an excess of triglycerides can get you in trouble, as it is known to cause several heart diseases. In combination with a healthy, balanced diet, exercise can get you a long way.
How does physical exercise affect triglycerides levels?
While the exact mechanism that makes cholesterol go away is yet to be known, researchers have some theories. Nowadays it’s believed that exercise somehow stimulates important enzymes (proteins) that contribute to lowering LDL — bad cholesterol—, removing it from your bloodstream and carrying it to your liver, where it’s processed into bile or directly excreted.
Exercise also induces metabolisation of sugar within your body. These processed sugars don’t end up being converted to triglycerides.
Apparently, physical exercise can also be effective in reducing cholesterol because it makes the proteins that carry it bigger. These particles, called lipoproteins, can be more or less dense — hence their names —, Low density lipoproteinsbeing the ones that are known as bad cholesterol, as they are more likely to end up clogging your arteries.
Many studies point to physical exercise as a method for effectively reducing cholesterol and triglycerides levels. For instance, research published by the Journal of Obesity showed that obese adults who jogged, walked or cycled and followed a cholesterol-lowering diet improved their LDL cholesterol and triglycerides levels.
How much physical exercise you should do, as explained by the experts
The official American Heart Association’s recommendations regarding physical exercise for adults are as follows:
150: you should spend a minimum of 150 minutes a week doing aerobic activity of moderate intensity, or 75 weekly minutes of vigorous aerobic activity. You can combined both types, and the AHA recommends spreading these throughout the week.
Get moving: leaving aerobic activity aside, try to move as much as you can throughout your day, as any activity will be better than none at all. According to the AHA, even light activity can makeup for sedentism and the risks it poses.
Get your heart pumping: intensity is an important factor, though. With controlled, safe moderate or vigorous activity, your heart will beat at a faster pace. While those who are not used to exercising should start slow, as you progress you can add intensity.
Muscle-building: Muscle-strengthening is another way you can benefit from an active life. This can be in the form of weight lifting or resistance exercises. The AHA recommends this type of activity at least twice a week.
Although we focus on physical health, AHA also notes that exercising can keep your brain healthy and positively impact your mood, helping with sleep and lowering your risk of chronic disease like dementia.
On the other hand, the NHS cites several more benefits for physical exercise. For instance, it helps by lowering the risk of coronary hear disease, strokes or type 2 diabetes, and a great deal of those have to do with the impact it has on your cholesterol levels. It can also lower your risk or early death by up to 30%.
Three exercises to lower your cholesterol
Brisk walking: intense exercise can be great, but comes with the risk of getting injuries, both for initiated and the new ones. A low impact activity that can be done at your own pace is brisk walk. While walking at a normal pace is fine — remember, virtually every activity is better than doing nothing when safely done — brisk walking will help you burn calories faster. Compared to other activities, it also protects your joints. There’s also research backing its benefits. One of its scientists claimed that brisk walking 4,3 miles burned the same amount as running three miles.
Jogging: a morning jog can get you a long way, even if it’s not very fast. If anything, you should aim for longer runs. A 2013 study found that people who used to run long-distance showed improvements in their cholesterol levels compared to short-distance runners.
Weightlifting: just like aerobic exercise, strengthening exercises can help you get rid of cholesterol. They also increase your heart rate, so it’s another common recommendation. A 2011 study published by the journal Atherosclerosis found that those who took part in resistance training managed to clear LDL cholesterol faster than those who didn’t.
As always, remember to check with your doctor or trained coachh to discuss what’s best for you, given your personal situation and status.