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To Banish Belly Fat, Keep Moving

Study: Aerobic Exercise Better Than Weight Training to Reduce Unhealthy Abdominal Fat
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 2, 2011 -- If you want to get rid of your belly fat, vigorous aerobic exercise such as jogging or brisk walking beats weight or resistance training, a new study shows.

''If you are overweight or mildly obese and want to lose fat -- belly fat, visceral fat, liver fat -- vigorous aerobic training was better than resistance training," says researcher Cris Slentz, PhD, an exercise physiologist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

The study appears in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Belly Fat Fix: Study Details

Slentz and his team assigned men and women ranging from age 18 to 70, to one of three groups:

  • The aerobic training group exercised by walking on a treadmill on an incline. They put in the equivalent of 12 miles of jogging at 80% of their maximum heart rate each week.
  • The resistance training group did three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions on weight training machines, three times a week.
  • The combination group did both workouts.

The study lasted for eight months.

Slentz focused on visceral fat. It's located deep within the body around the stomach and fills spaces between internal organs. Think of it as “inside fat.” It's linked to an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems.

It is different from subcutaneous fat, the kind that lies directly under the skin. Subcutaneous fat is what is responsible for the so-called ''muffin top," the fat that spills over waistbands. Although too much of this subcutaneous fat is not good, too much visceral or "inside” belly fat is much more dangerous.

Belly Fat Fix: Study Results

The researchers compared before-and-after measurements. They reported results for 144 men and women, about equally divided among the three groups.

The aerobic training group had the most visceral fat reduction.

The combination group had more total belly fat reduction than aerobic training alone, but less visceral fat reduction that the aerobic-only group.

The resistance-only group had the least total belly fat reduction. It lost some subcutaneous fat but actually gained a bit of visceral fat.

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