Exercise Your Options: Get Moving to Manage Triglycerides


Linda Wasmer Andrews

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Want to play an active role in managing your health? Do it with exercise.

Regular physical activity lowers your chance of developing high triglycerides. If your triglycerides are already high, getting more active may reduce them. Exercise also promotes weight loss, and that helps bring triglycerides down even more. Plus, aerobic exercise raises HDL ("good") cholesterol levels if they're low. There's more: Physical activity decreases the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, and it reduces the risk for type 2 diabetes. That's a lot of benefit for a little time and effort.

How Much, How Hard, How Often?

The form of exercise that lowers triglycerides is aerobic activity (also called "cardio"). This kind of workout gets you breathing harder and your heart beating faster. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least two-and-a-half hours a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. It should be done for at least 10 minutes at a time, spread throughout the week. What's "moderate" mean? When you're exercising moderately, you can talk during the activity, but you're too winded to sing.

If you prefer, you can do one hour and 15 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity instead. When you're exercising vigorously, you can't say more than a few words without pausing for breath. Here are some examples of moderate and vigorous activities:

Moderate Intensity

Vigorous Intensity

Brisk walking

Jogging or running

Casual cycling

Fast cycling

Water aerobics

Aerobic dancing

Doubles tennis

Singles tennis

Moderate yard work; for example, pushing a power mower, raking leaves

Heavy yard work; for example, pushing a manual (nonpower) mower, heavy or rapid shoveling

The CDC also recommends muscle-strengthening exercises 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

And remember that these are the guidelines for the minimum amount of exercise. Even more exercise provides even greater health benefits. The CDC recommends working up to 5 hours a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 2 and a half hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, along with the 2 muscle-strengthening sessions each week. The organization states that going above even these levels provides even greater health benefits.

Working Workouts into Your Life

If you haven't been active for a while, ease into it gradually. For example, you could start with brisk, 10-minute walks several times a week, and work up from there. If you're at high risk for heart disease or have a chronic medical condition (such as heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis), that doesn't mean you have to sit on the sidelines. In fact, you have more than most to gain by getting active. Just talk with your doctor first about the best exercise plan for you.

These tips can help you stay motivated to move:

  • Keep it fun. Try a variety of activities, and focus on the ones you genuinely enjoy. Mix up your routine so it doesn't get boring.

  • Find the time. Keep track of your activities for a week to identify blocks of time when you could exercise. If you're too busy for a longer workout, take 10-minute mini-walks before work, during breaks, at lunch, and/or after dinner.

  • Bring a buddy. Many people find that exercising with a spouse or friend helps them stay on a schedule and multiplies the fun factor.

  • Join a class. Group exercise isn't for everyone. But if you're a joiner, it's a great way to learn new skills and socialize while you exercise.
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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 3, 2017

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