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exercises for cholesterol

The best exercises to reduce cholesterol

24 Aug 2021 • 5 min read

Are you watching your cholesterol levels or been told to try and reduce them?

Getting stronger with some resistance training can help!

Exercise is critical for long-term weight management, and maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important lifestyle factors to help lower cholesterol levels.

How does exercise manage cholesterol?

More glucose circulating in your bloodstream due to poor dietary choices and lifestyle can create excess fat stores in our bodies and increase cholesterol.

Lowering your overall body fat, and consequently, your cholesterol can reduce your risk of developing plaques in our arteries.1

But what does this have to do with exercise, we hear you ask? Well, having more muscle means you have extra ways of removing glucose from your blood.

Reductions in muscle mass as we age often occur more in our lower body than our upper bodies, and our legs are the biggest muscles in our body.2

Your muscles can also utilise fats for fuel, so not only does more muscle make you better at taking glucose out of your blood, it makes you better at burning off fats too – win win!

Lower body exercise routine to help manage cholesterol

Training your legs effectively is a fantastic way to build large amounts of muscle.

The exercises below focus on compound training, which ensures you’re using as many muscles as possible.  

Leg training also has the benefit of building strong abdominal muscles, so it is important to warm up the whole body before heavy leg exercises.

Do some star jumps, jumping on the spot, and lunging from side to side for around 5 mins for a good warm-up.

Equipment needed: Dumbbells x 2

Exercise 1: Dumbbell Romanian deadlift

Repetitions: 10
Sets: 4

1

From a standing position with feet hip-width apart grip the dumbbells tight in each hand and allow them to sit just below your hips.

2

Imagine there is a button behind you that you want to press with your bum, there should be no movement at your knees as this is a hip extension exercise – keep those legs straight with a slight bend in the knees so you don’t ‘lock’ them.

3

Keeping a straight back, bend forwards from the hips until the dumbbells get to around your mid-shin level and ‘pop’ back up to your original position – making sure to squeeze those glutes at the top.

Exercise 2: Walking lunge

Repetitions: 12
Sets: 3

1

This lunge can be static if you don't have much space.

2

Keeping your back nice and straight while holding the dumbbells, take a step forward - putting as much weight as possible on the front foot, keeping your heel down.

3

With your back leg, stay on your toes and lower your knee almost to the floor.

4

Push back up to standing using your glutes and quads.

5

Repeat with the other leg until you reach 12 reps per leg.

Exercise 3 & 4: Superset: Calf raises + Bulgarian split squats

These are two separate exercises and should be performed straight after one another for maximum results.

Repetitions: 10 (for each exercise)
Sets: 2 (for each exercise)

1

For the calf raise, stand up straight with your feet together and dumbbells in each hand by your side. Push into your toes and lift your heels, hold for a few seconds and release the heel back down. Repeat.

2

For the split squats, place one foot on an elevated surface, like a table, sofa or stair with the other leg out in front of you and dumbbells at your side.

3

Keeping the back leg still, lunge down on the front leg until your back knee touches the ground and come back up. Swap legs on the second set.

Upper body exercise routine to help manage cholesterol

Equipment needed: Dumbbells x 2

Exercise 1: Overhead press

Repetitions: 10
Sets: 4

1

Stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart with the dumbbells at head level.

2

Squeeze your glutes and tense your abs then press the dumbbells above your head like you’re trying to push them up to the ceiling until your elbows are straight (but not locked), and then slowly return.

Exercise 2: Single arm Dumbbell Row

Repetitions: 8
Sets: 4

1

Whilst standing with a straight back, bend forwards and place one hand on a chair seat/ low object that enables your spine to be as close to horizontal as possible.

2

With your other arm, rest a dumbbell on the floor and pull it back up – keep your arm close to your body and try to get your elbow up as high as you can.

3

You can try and go a bit heavier on this one because you are using the big muscles in your back.

Exercise 3: Push-ups/ kneeling press-ups

Repetitions: as many as possible
Sets: 3

1

Get on all fours and place your hands just outside of shoulder width, or whatever is comfortable for you, and assume a plank position (like the top of a push up with your bum low) ensuring the weight is evenly distributed through your hand* Or rest your knees on the floor for an easier option.

2

Keeping your elbows close to your sides, lower your chest as far to the floor as you can and then press up until your arms are fully locked out.

3

You can go onto your fists, or use push-up grips if you have wrist pain.

Exercise 4: Superset: Bicep curl + bench press

These are two separate exercises and should be performed straight after one another for maximum results.

Repetitions: 10 (for both exercises)
Sets: 3 (for both exercises)

1

Stand up straight with both dumbbells near your hips, palms facing up.

2

Keeping your elbows still, curl the dumbbell and imagine you are trying to touch your shoulder with it. Very slowly lower back to the start.

3

After 10 reps, lie on the floor or bench holding the dumbbells in-line with your chest, with elbows tucked about 2 inches from your ribs.

4

Extend both arms simultaneously until your arms are fully locked and return to the starting position.

Full body exercise routine to help reduce cholesterol

Equipment needed: Dumbbells x 2

Exercise 1: Bent over Dumbbell row

Strengthens: Back
Repetitions: 12
Sets: 4

Tips

  • For any rowing exercise, don’t grip the dumbbell too tight, and really imagine you are pulling with your elbow not your wrist
  • Don’t row up in a straight line, instead imagine putting your elbow in your back pocket
  • Always keep a firm core and squeezed glutes

1

Take both dumbbells in your hands and stand up straight.

2

Now slowly lower your upper body while bending your hips back and assume a comfortable position with the dumbbells in front of you.

3

Keeping your core tensed and your glutes squeezed, row both dumbbells up to your chest and lower. You should feel your back muscles working.

Exercise 2: Dumbbell goblet squat

Strengthens: Legs
Repetitions: 8
Sets: 4

Tip: A squat uses many muscles, so you can use a heavier dumbbell, if you choose, to really work the glutes and quadriceps.

1

Hold the dumbbells just above your sternum (breastbone) and as close to your body as you can. Keep your hands clasped for the entire lift.

2

Place your feet wider than your shoulders, or wherever is needed for you to maintain a neutral spine (wide will help keep your spine more upright).

3

Once you have your foot placement, imagine lowering yourself to sit in a chair and squat down, keeping your abs tensed and not letting the dumbbell sag down.

4

Squeeze your glutes and legs to come back up to standing, then repeat.

Exercise 3: Dumbbell glute bridge

Strengthens: Glutes
Repetitions: 15
Sets: 4

1

Lay down on your back with your feet on the floor and knees bent (like a triangle).

2

Place a cushion on your lap and rest the dumbbell on it.

3

Tilt your pelvis slightly forward by squeezing your glutes and thrust upwards so that your body is as straight as possible – like you’re trying to get your belly button up to the ceiling.

4

You should feel a good contraction in your glutes if you press through your heels rather than your toes. Relax back into the mat and repeat.

Exercise 4: Plank

Duration: hold for as long as you can

1

Place your hands directly under your shoulders on the floor (slightly wider than shoulder width – just like you’re about to do a push-up).

2

Press your toes into the floor, lift up your heels, and squeeze your glutes and abs to stabilise your body. It’s like doing a push up, but you don’t come back down, instead, you hold the ‘top’ position.

3

Keep your neck and spine neutral by focusing on a spot on the floor around 30cm from your hands. Make sure you keep your glutes low – so your body is in a straight line from head to toe.

4

Hold for as long as you can without compromising your form or breath – 20 seconds is a good place to start.

And you’re finished!

We hope you enjoyed that workout!

Try and do this routine at least once per week.

You can combine it with our upper body resistance training workout and full-body workout too.

Try to walk often and include some cardio like this for an all-round great routine to help manage cholesterol

Want to make sure what you’re eating isn’t raising your cholesterol levels? Try some of these healthy meals for people watching their cholesterol:

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Last updated: 23 August 2021

bhupesh-panchal

Bhupesh Panchal

Author

Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: April 2019

Masters Degree in Toxicology and BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry

Bhupesh started his career as a Clinical Toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products.

After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.
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