Cholesterol and Its Types
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is present in all the cells of the body. It is used by the body to build cells and make vitamins and other hormones. Cholesterol is, as such, not bad for the body. The problem occurs when excess cholesterol is present in the body. Cholesterol is produced by the liver. It is also found in some foods, like meat and dairy products.
Cholesterol is a combination of fat (lipid) and protein and hence is a lipoprotein. The three types of cholesterol found are HDL (high-density lipoprotein), LDL (low-density lipoprotein), and VLDL (very-low-density lipoprotein). HDL is termed as good cholesterol, whereas LDL and VLDL are termed as bad cholesterol. Excess buildup of LDL and VLDL contributes to the buildup of plaque in the arteries. This results in the blockage of the arteries preventing proper blood flow.
How Does Exercise Impact HDL cholesterol?
One of the main ways to control the levels of bad cholesterol and increase HDL levels is physical activity. Exercise is known to be beneficial for a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise can prove to be good for your body in several ways. It helps reduce weight and raise the HDL (good cholesterol) levels in your body to a certain extent. Lifestyle changes like dietary changes, stress management, weight loss, and quitting smoking can help maintain cholesterol levels.
Research shows a direct link between exercise and an increase in HDL levels and a subsequent effect on LDL levels. The beneficial effects of aerobic exercise, resistance training, and combined exercise on cholesterol are detailed in a review based on previous investigations done. The impact of different types of exercise, intensity, and exercise recommendations have also been studied and listed.
In a meta-analysis conducted in Tokyo, researchers studied the effect of exercise type, frequency, and intensity on HDL cholesterol levels. The study participants exercised for about 40 minutes three to four times a week, on average. The HDL levels were measured after eight to twenty-seven weeks of exercise. A statistically significant increase in HDL cholesterol level was found across participants, and a drop in cardiac risk was also reported. The major takeaway from this study was that exercise duration has a major effect on the increased HDL levels compared to the frequency or intensity of exercise. According to this study, at least 20 minutes of exercise, three to four times a week would help increase HDL levels.
Another study reported that physically active women have significantly higher levels of HDL cholesterol compared to sedentary women. This study included participants that were free from any cardiovascular diseases.
Yet another study found that regular endurance exercise helps men with belly fat, low HDL cholesterol, and elevated triglyceride levels. The study concluded that regular endurance exercises could increase HDL cholesterol levels.
High-density Lipoprotein and its importance
HDL, referred to as good cholesterol, is responsible for removing other harmful forms of cholesterol from the blood. It carries cholesterol from different parts of the body to the liver, which removes cholesterol from the body.
How Does Genetics Affect The Influence of Exercise on HDL Cholesterol Levels?
The PPARD Gene And The Influence of Exercises on HDL Cholesterol Effects
The PPARD gene encodes a protein called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor delta. This belongs to a family of proteins that bind to other proteins or molecules termed as ligands. These proteins are called receptors. On binding, the receptor controls the expression of a gene called PPRE. This leads to changes in various factors involved in the metabolism of energy substrates, like lipids and carbohydrates.
The delta form of this protein is known to have a role in the breakdown of fatty acids (like cholesterol), insulin sensitivity, and energy uncoupling.
rs2016520 and HDL Levels On Exercising
rs2016520 is an SNP in the PPARD gene. According to a study done in 2018 with female participants, the C allele is associated with a decrease in cholesterol levels through training and a decrease in triglycerides.
Non-genetic Factors That Affect HDL Cholesterol Levels
People who do not exercise regularly are known to have lower HDL levels. Regular physical activity is a major contributor to increasing HDL levels.
The chemicals found in cigarettes are known to decrease HDL levels.
People who are obese or overweight have lower HDL levels. Losing weight can help increase levels of HDL.
Diet can also play a role in influencing HDL levels. Food that contains a lot of trans fat is known to increase LDL levels and decrease HDL levels. These include cakes and fried foods. Substituting these fats in your diet with food containing monounsaturated fats like olives, avocado, and fatty fish can help increase HDL levels.
Effects of Insufficient HDL in the Body
Below 40 mg/dL HDL level is known to increase one’s risk of developing heart disease. In women, the lower limit for being at risk of heart disease is around 50 mg/dL. HDL levels above 60 mg/dL are associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
In most people, high HDL levels are a good sign and reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular issues. It is always advised to maintain recommended levels of cholesterol to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Improving Your Exercise Routine
As exercise is effective for keeping cholesterol in check, a proper exercise routine should be followed. The amount of time you exercise for is equally important as the type of exercise you do. It is always good to be physically fit to keep your body in check.
A good jog or run (if you’re up for it) is known to be a great exercise to keep your cholesterol levels in check. According to a study done in 2013, long-distance runners (more than 10 miles a week) have abetter improvement in cholesterol levels and blood pressure compared to short distance runners.
A brisk walk is also effective in increasing HDL levels. The distance covered by walking should be greater than that by jogging or sprinting to get the same amount of benefit. It all depends on the amount of energy you exert while doing the physical activity.
Cycling is another exercise that is less stressful on your joints than jogging or running. Cycling is found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. People who cycled to work are less likely to develop high cholesterol compared to people who don’t, as reported by a study.
Another beneficial aerobic exercise is swimming. It is found to help more with weight loss, fat reduction, and lowering LDL cholesterol levels as compared to walking.
Lifting weights combined with aerobic exercise can help keep your heart healthy.
Yoga is also known to reduce cardiovascular disease risk. Regular practice of yoga keeps your cholesterol levels in check.
A healthy lifestyle, including at least 30 minutes of proper exercise a few days a week, is very important to keep your cholesterol levels in check and reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- Cholesterol is a combination of fat and lipids and is produced by the liver. Excess of bad cholesterol is harmful as it contributes to a higher risk for cardiovascular diseases.
- HDL, also known as good cholesterol, helps in removing the bad cholesterol from the body. Higher levels of HDL are known to be beneficial to the body, especially in reducing the risk of heart disease in healthy individuals.
- Regular physical activity is shown to help increase HDL levels and reduce levels of bad cholesterol in the body.
- Studies show that aerobic exercise, resistance training are effective ways to increase HDL. The duration of physical activity is found to be an important factor in increasing HDL levels compared to the type of activity done.
- A modification of the PPARD gene influences cholesterol levels after physical training. The C allele of SNP rs2016520 has been associated with a decrease in cholesterol levels in the course of training.
- Non-genetic factors like diet, weight, and smoking also affect HDL levels.
- Jogging, swimming, lifting weights, aerobic exercise, yoga, and cycling are some of the physical activities that contribute to increasing levels of HDL and reducing levels of bad cholesterol.