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High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, cholesterol is the good kind. Increasing your HDL levels lowers your risk of developing heart disease. The optimal HDL number is 60mg/dL or above, according to the American Heart Association. Being overweight is a factor in low levels, but eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise helps you drop weight and raise your numbers. Cycling is one form of exercise that works well for people trying to raise their good cholesterol. Just two months of regular exercise is enough to raise your HDL numbers by 5 percent, notes the Mayo Clinic.
Ride your bike for at least 30 minutes, five days per week. This is the optimal amount for getting your HDL where it should be. Break this time into smaller chunks if you have trouble fitting in 30 minutes at one time. For example, take a 10-minute bike ride in the morning, at lunchtime and before bed to reach the recommended amount of cycling time. Increase your cycling time to 60 minutes for more benefit.
Cycle briskly. You'll know you are at a good intensity if you are slightly winded, but can carry on a conversation and your heart rate is elevated. If your ride feels too easy, try increasing your speed.
Combine your cycling schedule with healthy types of fat. This includes polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids. These types of fat improve heart health, making them a good addition to a diet and exercise program that increases your HDL. Olive and canola oil, avocados, nuts, salmon and flaxseed are good options.
Eat a low-calorie diet. This helps you lose weight, and when combined with cycling regularly, helps raise your good cholesterol numbers. Fill your plate with a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy, which are generally low in calories, but high in nutrition for good health. Avoid fast food, frozen meals, processed snacks, cookies, cake and candy, which are often high in unhealthy fats and calories.
- Wear a helmet when cycling to prevent injuries if you fall.
- Talk to your doctor before beginning a cycling program.
- Smoking can decrease your HDL level. Quitting helps increase your HDL numbers, and may make cycling easier because you'll be able to breathe better.