Regular physical activity can help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad," cholesterol, the main source of cholesterol buildup in the arteries and a risk factor for heart disease. It can also raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol, which helps prevent cholesterol buildup.
The surgeon general recommends engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity a week — about 20 minutes a day — such as cycling, dancing, bowling and gardening. More-intense activities include jogging, swimming, and playing basketball, racquetball, soccer and tennis.
Adding muscle-strengthening exercises, such as squats, arm curls and leg raises, at least two days a week increases benefit.
Check with your doctor before you start any exercise regimen. It's best to ease into your exercise routine slowly if you haven't been active lately. For instance, start by taking short walks around the block, and then gradually work up to a faster pace and longer distances.