Regular physical activity improves cholesterol levels: It helps to lower LDL and raise HDL. It can also help you lose weight, if you are overweight. But you don't have to train like a long distance runner to benefit: Even doing any physical activity for just a few minutes each day is better than none at all.
Try to build physical activity into your daily routine in ways like these:
- Take a walk at lunch time or after dinner.
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Get off the bus one or two stops early and walk the rest of the way.
- Park farther away from the store.
- Ride a bike.
- Work in the yard or garden.
- Go dancing.
Try to be active as a family: Take trips that include hiking, swimming, or skiing. Use your back yard or the park for games like badminton, basketball, football, or volleyball.
Vigorous activities like brisk walking, running, swimming, or jumping rope are called "aerobic." They are especially good for the health of your heart and can burn off extra calories. Aerobic activities can condition your heart if you do them for at least 30 minutes, three to four times a week. But even if you don't have 30 minutes, three to four times a week, try to find two 15-minute periods or even three 10-minute periods.
Most people do not need to see a doctor before they start being active, especially if they start off slowly and work up gradually to a sensible plan. But you should get advice from your doctor beforehand if any of these conditions apply to you: if you have a medical condition; if you have pains or pressure in the chest or shoulder area; if you tend to feel dizzy or faint; if you get very breathless after a mild workout; and if you are middle-aged or older, have not been physically active, and plan a fairly strenuous exercise program.