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The Truth About Belly Fat

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Thin People Have It, Too

Even if you're thin, you can still have too much visceral fat.

How much you have is partly about your genes, and partly about your lifestyle, especially how active you are.  

Visceral fat likes inactivity. In one study, thin people who watched their diets but didn't exercise were  more likely to have too much visceral fat.

The key is to be active, no matter what size you are.

4 Steps for Beating Belly Fat

There are four keys to controlling belly fat: exercise, diet, sleep, and stress management.

1. Exercise: Vigorous exercise trims all your fat, including visceral fat.

Get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 days a week. Walking counts, as long as it's brisk enough that you work up a sweat and breathe harder, with your heart rate faster than usual.  

To get the same results in half the time, step up your pace and get vigorous exercise -- like jogging or walking. You'd need to do that for 20 minutes a day, 4 days a week.

Jog, if you're already fit, or walk briskly at an incline on a treadmill if you're not ready for jogging. Vigorous workouts on stationary bikes and elliptical or rowing machines are also effective, says Duke researcher Cris Slentz, PhD.

Moderate activity -- raising your heart rate for 30 minutes at least three times per week -- also helps. It slows down how much visceral fat you gain. But to torch visceral fat, your workouts may need to be stepped up.

“Rake leaves, walk, garden, go to Zumba, play soccer with your kids. It doesn’t have to be in the gym,” Hairston says.

If you are not active now, it's a good idea to check with your health care provider before starting a new fitness program.

2. Diet: There is no magic diet for belly fat. But when you lose weight on any diet, belly fat usually goes first.

Getting enough fiber can help. Hairston’s research shows that people who eat 10 grams of soluble fiber per day -- without any other diet changes -- build up less visceral fat over time than others. That’s as simple as eating two small apples, a cup of green peas, or a half-cup of pinto beans.

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