Aerobic Exercise Best to Beat Belly Fat

If you’ve been keeping track of our blogs the past few weeks, you’ll know that visceral fat, or fat that wraps itself around the organs deep in the belly, is a cause for concern. This type of fat is linked with an increased risk of conditions ranging from diabetes to heart disease to cancer, and it can increase blood glucose and blood pressure.

As diabetes dietitian Amy Campbell noted in her “Blasted Belly Fat” blog series, there are a number of ways to reduce this type of fat, including exercise. And new research from Duke University Medical Center indicates that aerobic exercise is better than resistance exercise when it comes to getting rid of visceral fat.


Aerobic exercise consists of repeated and continuous use of the same large muscle groups and increases the body’s demand for oxygen, making the heart and lungs work harder. Examples include walking, bicycling, swimming, and jogging. Resistance exercise involves using the muscles to move a weight or resist a load, such as in weight lifting and exercises that use resistance bands.

The researchers looked at 196 overweight, sedentary adults from the ages of 18 to 70 over the course of eight months. The participants were randomly assigned to either an aerobic training group, a resistance training group, or a group combining the two types of exercise. Those in the aerobic training group performed exercises equivalent to jogging 12 miles weekly at 80% of their maximum heart rate; those in the resistance training group performed three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions of resistance exercises (such as weight lifting) three times each week.

Pure aerobic exercise was found to be the most effective at reducing levels of the dangerous visceral fat, at burning calories (67% more calories compared to resistance training), and at reducing liver fat. Aerobic exercise was also more effective at improving fasting insulin resistance and reducing fasting triglyceride levels and liver enzymes, all risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.

Cris Slentz, PhD, lead study author, observes that “Resistance training is great for improving strength and increasing lean body mass. But if you are overweight, which two thirds of the population is, and you want to lose belly fat, aerobic exercise is the better choice because it burns more calories.”

Although the exercise programs used in the study were fairly vigorous, the study authors believe that moderate training programs could achieve the same results as well. “If you choose to work at a lower aerobic intensity,” Slentz notes, “it will simply take longer to burn the same amount of unhealthy fat.”

To learn more about the study, read the article “Aerobic Exercise Bests Resistance Training at Burning Belly Fat” or see the study’s abstract in the American Journal of Physiology.

And for more information on using physical activity to beat fat, check out the article “Burning Fat Through Exercise,” by exercise physiologist and certified diabetes educator Richard M. Weil.

  • jim snell

    Hearty exercise is critical to keep the glucose marching out of body and preventing type 2 insulin resistance diabetes.

    I have found that 1 to 2 miles walking exercise suficient each day.

    When I do not walk , I watch BG tend to be higher and walking immediately gets it back down.

    Yes that should help reduce belly fat, but saving ones life , limbs, organs and eyes is key critical.

    While Insulin is key critical as flow control and gate keeper, exercise is key critical to keep cells from stacking up with glucose and backing up glucose in blood and having a situation labeled as insulin resistance.

    Food – Energy in must balance energy consumed by body or there will be fun.

  • Ferne

    It’s hard to get the proper exercise because I can’t walk. It’s always discouraging to read “increase the length of time you walk or increase the pace”. Those who can walk are very lucky.

  • miss kitty 3

    I have a friend who has the same problem you do. What I suggested is to do “chair exercises”.
    Sit in a comfortable chair, where your feet rest flet on the floor
    Lift your leg slowly up until level with chair seat. Flex ankle forward & backwards 5 times, then slowly lower foot to floor Do that for rach leg 10 reps.(repetitions)
    With or without 2 lb weights in bothe hands (or #2 can)lift slowly up until arm is level with shoulder Flex wrist up & down for 5 reps, then lower arm to your side. Do 10 reps for each arm.
    With wts in hand, arc the arm & hand until they are over head. Do 10 reps for boths are.
    Another “fun” (?) exercise is to “shrug your shoulder up & down 5 reps or until you feel your shoulder muscles relax.

    As always, consult your doctor or exercise expert about these exercises. They may or may not work for you.

  • Marc Azada

    My wife has been doing aerobics for the past 2 months now and she love it! This exercise is not only exciting, it can also help people to loose weight fast.

  • jim snell

    I realize not all can walk. Find some other form, weight lifting, shoveling the snow, something that exercises the skeletal muyscles. Walking is not the only way.

    After stroke, I could barely do anything but on the walker got marching. Yes it took 2 years to get going. Incisently walking does not burn the energy as fast as sweeping the sidewalk etc. Jusyt find some form that gets the skeletal muscles rolling. Swimming etc.

    Exercise is crucial to stopping the type 2 rot. Otherwise you will need to eat occasional soda cracker with a timy skin of something and vitamin pills to stay alive. Heart, brain, gut, body process burn of calories is really tiny, any other exercise you can get will enable one to eat a little more and interesting as well as save ones life.