Fortify your HDL by pumping iron. Staying fit turns good cholesterol into greatcholesterol, according to research from UCLA.
As a reminder, there are two key types of cholesterol: 1) "good" HDL, which is responsible for cleaning your arteries; and 2) "bad" LDL, which gunks those arteries up in the first place. In the study, the scientists discovered that men who strength-trained were more likely to have HDL that did its job well than those who didn't hit the gym.
Why? The quality of those good guys is more important than the total amount of HDL in your bloodstream. “Just because someone has naturally high levels of HDL doesn’t mean it’s working better. When you exercise, your HDL gets more efficient, and it doesn’t have to work as hard to keep your bloodstream clean of bad cholesterol and artery-clogging fats,” according to lead author, Christian K. Roberts, Ph.D.
And though researchers don’t know how exercise improves the quality of your cholesterol, they also observed that the lifters had lower levels of triglycerides, a marker of reduced heart disease risk. That's a direct effect of powerful HDL, according to Dr. Roberts. So if you want your HDL to do its heavy lifting, you have to pick up some weights first, which the researchers found to be true for both normal weight and overweight subjects.
Target your body’s biggest muscles. In an Ohio University study, men who added lower-body exercises, like weighted squats, twice a week for 16 weeks saw a 19 percent improvement in their HDL. Try some of these supercharged squat variations to get started.