How to lose visceral fat: High intensity exercise is best to burn the belly fat

Dr Zoe Williams discusses visceral fat on This Morning

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Visceral fat, also known as belly fat, can be found within the abdomen, where our organs reside. This positioning means it often interferes with metabolic processes, hiking your risk of chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, exercise has been shown to get at visceral fat more effectively than the fat we can pinch.

A study published in the journal Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders weighed up the impact of moderate-intensity exercise and high-intensity exercise to reduce visceral fat.

To examine the influence of moderate-intensity exercise training (MI) versus high-intensity exercise training (HI) on regional fat distribution, researchers compared 18 overweight participants with a control group.

Subjects enrolled in HI or MI completed a 12-week exercise training protocol designed to expend 1000 kcal/week.

Body composition testing was completed prior to and following the exercise training.

So, what did the researchers find out?

No significant change in body weight, BMI, and percentage fat occurred in moderate-intensity, high-intensity, or control group.

Although there was a significant reduction in visceral fat seen in the high-intensity group.

In contrast, there was no change in the moderate-intensity or control groups.

In their concluding remarks, the researchers said: “In summary, our direct comparison of exercise intensity without weight loss promotes the efficacy of HI [high-intensity] in the reduction in visceral fat.”

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What counts as high-intensity exercise?

High-intensity exercises are performed in short bursts of maximum effort broken up with rest.

This type of exercise is also known as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

Examples of very vigorous activities:

  • Lifting heavy weights
  • Circuit training
  • Sprinting up hills
  • Interval running
  • Running up stairs
  • Spinning classes.

As the NHS points out, most moderate activities can become vigorous if you increase your effort.

Research suggests exercise can also help keep the belly fat from coming back.

In a study at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, dieting women lost an average of 24 pounds and reduced both visceral and subcutaneous fat (the fat you can pinch), with or without aerobic or strength-training exercise.

In the following year, those who maintained their exercise programs — a modest 40 minutes twice a week — maintained their visceral fat loss, while those who didn’t exercise or abandoned their programs showed a 33 percent average increase in visceral fat.

Other key tips

In addition to engaging in an intensive exercise programme, diet also holds the key to keeping the belly fat at bay.

One of the most important dietary tips is to keep it healthy and balanced.

According to Bupa, you should try to eat at least five portions of fruit and veg each day, and include higher-fibre starchy foods in meals.

Other key tips include:

  • Have some reduced-fat diary or soya drinks fortified in calcium.
  • Eat more beans, pulses, fish and eggs.
  • Eat small amounts of unsaturated oil.
  • Drink six to eight glasses of water each day.
  • Avoid adding salt or sugar to your meals.

“Cut out sports drinks, sugar sweetened drinks and other foods that have a lot of added sugar in them,” adds the health body.

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