Want to raise HDL cholesterol? Exercise longer

HDL is “good” cholesterol because it picks up excess cholesterol in your blood and takes it back to your liver for disposal.

Dr Satoru Kodama and colleagues from Ochanomizu University in Tokyo reviewed the literature to find the best way to raise HDL cholesterol using exercise.

Here’s what they found.

  • Exercise can achieve a significant but modest 2.5 mg/dL (0.065 mmol/L) increase in HDL cholesterol.
  • The minimum exercise volume needed was about 900 kcal of energy expenditure per week or 120 minutes of exercise per week.
  • Every 10-minute prolongation of exercise per session was associated with an approximately 1.4 mg/dL (0.036 mmol/L) increase in HDL cholesterol level.
  • Exercise frequency or intensity had no effect on HDL cholesterol levels.
  • Exercise was more effective in people with initially high total cholesterol levels or low body mass index.

The bottom line?
This is just one more benefit associated with being active.

The confusing part for me is that although they conclude that exercise frequency or intensity had no effect on HDL cholesterol levels, it is necessary to have sufficient intensity to burn 900 calories in about 4 hours per week.

Based on my weight (90 kg), the tables at show that low impact aerobic exercise will burn 900 kcal in about 120 minutes of exercise per week.

You can use these tables to determine the calorie burning efficiency of your favorite exercise.

Is it worth the effort? refers to one study where “every 1% increase in HDL cholesterol was linked to a 2% reduction in the development of coronary artery disease.” The article also discusses target HDL cholesterol blood levels.

6/5/07 19:07 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.