Weight Training Improves HDL Cholesterol Function
HDL cholesterol is known as the good cholesterol because it transports cholesterol from the blood to the liver where it is removed from the body. Since it is good it’s desirable to have a high HDL cholesterol level. Unfortunately, improving HDL cholesterol is much more challenging than lowering LDL cholesterol or the bad cholesterol. But, there is more than just having an optimal HDL cholesterol level. The HDL needs to function properly. HDL cholesterol has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity which probably contribute to HDL cholesterol’s ability to reduce heart disease.
Weight loss and aerobic exercise have been shown to mildly improve HDL cholesterol levels. But, since people with very nice HDL cholesterol levels still can get heart disease it has been speculated that perhaps HDL cholesterol does not function well in some individuals as it does in others.
A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology looked at the effects of weight training on HDL cholesterol function. The researchers studied HDL cholesterol function in 90 men ages 18 to 30 and divided them into three groups based on their established exercise patterns. One group was lean and performed weight training at least four times a week. The second group was overweight but also weight trained at least four times a week. And, the third group did no structured exercise.
The researchers did a number of biometric measurements on all men as well as obtaining blood work looking at a number of metabolic indicators/markers and also measured muscle strength and carotid artery thickness (an indicator of cardiovascular disease). They specifically measured the antioxidant activty of HDL cholesterol.
They found that regardless of body weight the men who performed weight training at least four days a week had HDLs that had better antioxidant activity than men who did not weight train.
The researchers were not surprised that overweight men who weight trained had similar HDL antioxidant activity as lean men who weight trained as the effects of obesity on heart disease appear to be more related to fitness level as strength training/fitness is inversely associated with metabolic syndrome. In other words, overweight men who weight train above a certain threshold are not likely to develop metabolic syndrome, and therefore less likely to get heart disease than sedentary overweight men.
Improving HDL cholesterol function – another great reason to add weight training to your exercise program!