Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Longer workouts better for boosting good cholesterol

Heart Beat

Longer workouts better for boosting good cholesterol

Exercise is often touted as a way to boost protective high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. What hasn't been clear is how much exercise, or what kind, is best. Japanese researchers set out to fill that knowledge gap by pulling together data from the 25 best clinical trials designed to test the effect of exercise on HDL.

On average, exercise increased HDL by 2.5 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL). The range, though, was huge — from gains of 23 mg/dL to reductions of 21 mg/dL. Using various statistical techniques, the researchers determined that the weekly amount of exercise was more important for raising HDL than its intensity or frequency. Getting at least 120 minutes of exercise a week (or exercising away 900 calories), in segments of at least 30 minutes apiece, appeared to be the best way to boost HDL. The researchers estimated that every additional 10 minutes of weekly exercise time boosts HDL by an average of 1.4 mg/dL.

Keep in mind that this sort of exercise regime will do more than just raise protective HDL. It will strengthen your heart and bones, improve your circulation, and be good for virtually every part of your body.

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