The Best Exercises to Lower Cholesterol

An activity plan and healthy lifestyle can help lower your levels significantly

Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do to lower your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol, raise your "good" (HDL) cholesterol, and reduce your risk of heart disease.

There are a lot of exercise programs out there. While some of the best exercises to lower cholesterol are discussed in this article, know that most types of activities appear to have a positive impact on your cholesterol. The key is making sure that you choose one that you will regularly do for at least 30 minutes each day.

Women exercising in class
Blend Images / Getty Images 

Exercises to Lower Cholesterol

While both aerobic exercise and strength-training exercises have been found to have benefits on cardiovascular health, studies suggest that a combination is ideal. A 2012 study in BMC Public Health, found that engaging in both types of exercise resulted in greater benefits for weight loss, fat loss, and cardiorespiratory fitness than either cardio or resistance exercises alone.

Some of the best exercises to lower cholesterol naturally include:

Walking, Jogging, or Running

Running, jogging, and running are great exercises to lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Aim to spend at least 150 minutes per week walking, jogging, or running with moderate intensity to see results.

Which one you choose will depend on your stamina and your joint health, but all are beneficial.

A 2013 study compared tens of thousands of runners to an equal number of walkers and concluded that the amount of exercise was what mattered, not the type. People who exerted the same level of energy when exercising experienced similar benefits, whether they walked or ran. The researchers determined that walking 4.3 miles at a brisk pace would use the same amount of energy as running three miles.


Cycling expends about the same energy as jogging, but it’s easier on your joints. If you experience joint pain, it may be best to choose cycling over running. You can hit local trails or try a stationary exercise bike to lower cholesterol.

Scientists reported in the Journal of the American Heart Association that people who biked to work were less likely to develop high cholesterol than those who didn’t.

Swimming and Water Exercises

Water exercises, such as swimming, water walking, and participating in water games, can also produce similar results in your cholesterol profile as other aerobic exercises and are kind to your joints as well.

Weight Lifting

Lifting weights or doing other resistance exercises—for example using resistance bands or even your own body weight—is helpful on its own, and especially as part of an exercise program that includes aerobic exercise as well.


While yoga is generally a low-intensity exercise, studies have shown that it may reduce the risk of heart disease and may positively affect cholesterol levels. A large review in 2014 found that those who regularly practiced yoga showed significant improvement in LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and blood pressure over those who didn’t exercise.

The fastest way to lower your cholesterol without medication is to exercise consistently with combined aerobic training and strength training and adopt a low-cholesterol diet. For some people, these lifestyle changes alone may be sufficient.

How Much to Exercise to Lower Cholesterol

How much and how often you exercise is important. According to the American Heart Association, you should aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity; or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week.

You'll gain even more benefits by being active at least 300 minutes (five hours) per week. Add moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least two days per week.

That said, any physical activity is better than nothing, even if it's just taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or walking around the block.

Furthermore, if you find it hard to exercise for long periods at a time, you can divide it up into shorter sessions—10 or 15 minutes—throughout the day and still reap similar benefits.

How Long Does it Take to Lower Cholesterol With Exercise?

Some studies show that a significant improvement in cholesterol can occur within six months of consistent aerobic exercise combined with strength training. However, you will need to adopt a low-cholesterol diet as well.

Getting Started

If you've been leading a sedentary lifestyle and/or are overweight, you should contact your healthcare professional to help you create an exercise program that progressively works up to a caloric energy expenditure of about 1,000 calories per week.

The intensity of your workout should be at a low or moderate level until your aerobic endurance increases. Start out exercising in intervals of 10 to 15 minutes and build up to 30 minutes over time. Increase amount and intensity gradually over time.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much physical activity do adults need?.

  2. Ho SS, Dhaliwal SS, Hills AP, Pal S. The effect of 12 weeks of aerobic, resistance or combination exercise training on cardiovascular risk factors in the overweight and obese in a randomized trial. BMC Public Health. 2012;12:704. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-704

  3. Barone Gibbs B, Hivert MF, Jerome G, et al. Physical activity as a critical component of first-line treatment for elevated blood pressure or cholesterol: Who, what, and how?: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Hypertension. 2021 Jun; 78(2):26-37. doi:10.1161/HYP.0000000000000196

  4. Williams PT, Thompson PD. Walking versus running for hypertension, cholesterol, and diabetes mellitus risk reduction. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2013;33(5):1085-91. doi:10.1161/ATVBAHA.112.300878

  5. Grøntved A, Koivula RW, Johansson I, et al. Bicycling to work and primordial prevention of cardiovascular risk: a cohort study among Swedish men and womenJ Am Heart Assoc. 2016;5(11):e004413. doi:10.1161/JAHA.116.004413

  6. Volaklis KA, Spassis AT, Tokmakidis SP. Land versus water exercise in patients with coronary artery disease: effects on body composition, blood lipids, and physical fitness. Am Heart J. 2007;154(3):560.e1-6. doi:10.1016/j.ahj.2007.06.029

  7. Ho SS, Dhaliwal SS, Hills AP, Pal S. The effect of 12 weeks of aerobic, resistance or combination exercise training on cardiovascular risk factors in the overweight and obese in a randomized trialBMC Public Health. 2012;12:704. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-704

  8. Chu P, Gotink RA, Yeh GY, Goldie SJ, Hunink MG. The effectiveness of yoga in modifying risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2016;23(3):291-307. doi:10.1177/2047487314562741

  9. Janse Van Rensburg W. Lifestyle changes alone sufficient to lower cholesterol in male patient with moderately elevated cholesterol: A case report. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2018 Oct;13(2):148-155. doi:10.1177/1559827618806841

  10. American Heart Association. American Heart Association recommendations for physical activity in adults and kids.

  11. Mann S, Beedie C, Jimenez A. Differential effects of aerobic exercise, resistance training, and combined exercise modalities on cholesterol and the lipid profile: Review, synthesis, and recommendations. Sports Med. 2013 Oct;44(2):211-221. doi:10.1007/s40279-013-0110-5

By Jennifer Moll, PharmD
Jennifer Moll, MS, PharmD, is a pharmacist actively involved in educating patients about the importance of heart disease prevention.