By Jason Thomas

In this day and age, everyone knows that exercise is good for you.  Almost every person with a diagnosed cholesterol issue has been informed by their physician that increased physical activity, specifically regular exercise, is prescribed as part of a cholesterol management protocol.


The problem is that many people do not enjoy jogging, and traditional resistance training does not elicit the cholesterol management effects needed for reduced risk of heart disease. Now, according to new research, there is a way to improve specific markers for improved cholesterol.


In an article published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, high intensity interval training (HIIT) can improve HDL levels just as well as traditional cardiovascular conditioning, like jogging.


To understand why this is significant, you first have to understand what the different markers of cholesterol mean, specifically HDL and LDL.  In the simplest sense, LDL is a dump truck and HDL is a vacuum cleaner.  LDL leaves the liver where cholesterol is stored and carries cholesterol through the bloodstream, dropping it off, sometimes inadvertently, along the way.


HDL departs from the liver and collects excess cholesterol from the bloodstream and takes it back to the liver for storage.  If you have too many dump trucks and not enough vacuums, your risk of heart disease increases.  LDL is generally controlled through diet and genetics. HDL on the other hand can be managed directly through physical activity.  Higher HDLs mean more vacuum cleaners, which mean less cholesterol lying around in your bloodstream causing blockages.


HIIT involves training at high intensities for a specific period of time, not distance nor repetitions, then resting for a specific amount of time. Most beginning protocols use a 1:1 ratio for work and rest. The high intensity training requires high amounts of energy (calories) expenditure during a short period of time, then requires an elevated heart rate to recover and prepare for the next bout of exercises.


When performed in an intelligent and safe manner, HIIT can burn just as many, sometimes more, calories than activities such as jogging, biking, or using the elliptical. Couple that information with the positive cholesterol effects, and HIIT would be a sound choice for weight and cholesterol management for those people who dislike traditional cardiovascular training or are looking for a more creative way to exercise.


Jason Thomas is owner and director of Training for Strength Lab. Contact him at jthomas@strength-lab.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.