Visceral fat: Aerobic training has ‘highest potential’ to reduce the belly fat

Dr Zoe Williams discusses visceral fat on This Morning

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A common misconception is that fat is intrinsically bad but you need a healthy amount to function. Fat helps give your body energy, protects your organs and supports cell growth, among other things. However, an accumulation of visceral fat spells bad news because it lurks near vital organs in the body.

Fortunately, you can reduce the harmful belly fat through regular exercise.

The importance of exercise may seem axiomatic but different exercises confer different benefits, with some more effective at reducing visceral fat than others.

A study published in the journal PLOS ONE, evaluated the impact of different types of exercise on visceral fat reduction.

To gather their findings, researchers conducted a systematic literature search.

After conducting a comprehensive sweep of credible studies, the researchers found that aerobic training of moderate or high intensity has the “highest potential” to reduce visceral fat in overweight males and females.

These results suggest that an aerobic exercise program, without a low-calorie diet, can effectively reduce the belly fat, the researchers concluded.

What counts as aerobic training?

Aerobic activity will raise your heart rate, and make you breathe faster and feel warmer.

“One way to tell if you’re working at a moderate intensity level is if you can still talk, but not sing,” explains the NHS.

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Examples include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Water aerobics
  • Riding a bike
  • Dancing
  • Doubles tennis
  • Pushing a lawn mower
  • Hiking
  • Rollerblading.

According to Harvard Health, strength training (exercising with weights) may also help fight visceral fat.

“Spot exercising, such as doing sit-ups, can tighten abdominal muscles, but it won’t get at visceral fat,” the health body adds.

Other key tips for losing the belly fat

Eating a healthy, balanced diet can maximise the benefits of physical activity.

Certain food groups provide optimal benefits for reducing visceral fat.

“Protein can be a helpful way to lose weight because it makes you feel fuller than carbs and fat do,” explains Bupa.

If you include a lean source of protein, such as skinless white chicken, in your meals you may find that you’re not as hungry, and so eat less, says the health body.

“Make sure you include protein with each meal.”

Good sources of protein include chicken breast, tuna, mackerel, salmon, eggs, milk, red lentils, chickpeas, brown bread, nuts and soya.

You should also pay attention to portion size, and emphasise complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), advises Harvard Health.

“Replacing saturated fats and trans fats with polyunsaturated fats can also help,” says the health body.

Scientists also hope to develop drug treatments that target abdominal fat, it adds.

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