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Step Up to Good Cholesterol

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You may have known that step aerobics can burn calories and is a good exercise for the heart, but did you know that research specifically has found step aerobics can step up your good cholesterol levels?

Step Up to Good Cholesterol

There are two kinds of cholesterol. The first is high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, also called "good cholesterol" and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also called "bad cholesterol". A high LDL level puts you at an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke.

A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found step aerobic exercise significantly raised the HDL cholesterol levels of the study participants. This small, eight-week study followed 45 sedentary female Turkish college students. Fifteen of the women participated in step aerobic exercise and another 15 did traditional aerobic dance. Each 45-minute session was done for three days a week. The remaining 15 women in the study continued to be sedentary.

At the study's conclusion, the investigators from Baskent University in Ankara found that both groups of active women showed a significant reduction in their overall cholesterol levels compared to the sedentary group. However, only the women participating in step aerobics showed a substantial increase in their HDL cholesterol levels. Body weight did not change in any of the groups.

Although researchers concluded that step aerobics is effective in modifying (cholesterol) profiles (at least in female college-aged students), they did not speculate on reasons why that was the case.

The researchers did note, however, that certain points need to be considered, including that this was a small study. Also, though the women were told not to alter their diets, there is no information whether this direction was followed. It also is important to remember that other factors contribute to high cholesterol levels, including your age and your weight.

Step aerobics more vigorous

"Step aerobics is more vigorous than aerobic dance, and the vigorousness and frequency of exercise determines a higher or better change in HDLs," says Gerald Fletcher, M.D., a cardiologist with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. and a spokesman for the American Heart Association. "There are many good reasons to do exercise," Fletcher says. "Regularity and frequency of exercise tends to bring HDL levels up more dependably. The more vigorous the exercise is, the better, from the standpoint of overall health benefits."

According to Robyn Stuhr, M.A., an exercise physiologist at the Women's Sports Medicine Center, Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, step aerobics can provide a challenging workout and is a great choice for those who enjoy exercising to music in a group.

"Aerobic exercise contributes to health in many more ways than increasing HDL cholesterol," Stuhr adds. "Aerobic exercise has a positive effect on stamina, blood pressure, weight, sleep patterns, energy levels, lipid profiles, and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. We should all get moving!"

Stuhr advises that if a person experiences knee pain while using a step bench, he or she should use a lower step height, see a sports medicine doctor, or consider another form of aerobic exercise such as cycling, elliptical training, or walking.

Also, the American Heart Association recommends that if you have a health risk such as high cholesterol or have had a heart problem, you should speak with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. This is extremely important if you have led an inactive lifestyle. When you speak with your doctor, you can develop an exercise routine together that will benefit you and your heart.

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