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Exercise Wards Off Dangerous Form of Fat

Diane Fennell

November 6, 2009

As little as 80 minutes a week of aerobic or resistance exercise can prevent the regain of dangerous visceral fat, a type of fat that is stored around vital organs, according to a study recently published in the journal Obesity. Increased visceral fat is known to raise the risk of various diabetes-related conditions, including heart disease and heart attack.

Researchers randomly assigned 45 European-American women and 52 African-American women to one of three groups: One group was asked to perform aerobic training (exercise that increases the body’s need for oxygen, such as swimming or cycling), another group was asked to perform resistance training (exercise that involves working muscles against weights, such as weight lifting), and the comparison group was not assigned any form of exercise. Additionally, all of the participants were placed on an 800-calorie-a-day meal plan, resulting in an average weight loss of 24 pounds. At the conclusion of this portion of the study, the researchers measured the women’s total fat, abdominal subcutaneous fat (fat under the skin of the trunk area), and visceral fat levels.

Women in the two exercise groups were then asked to continue exercising for 40 minutes twice a week for the following year. At the end of the year, the scientists remeasured the participants’ fat levels. The results showed that women who had stuck with the exercise regimen did not regain any visceral fat, despite modest regains in weight, whereas women who had stopped exercising or who were not assigned to an exercise group had a 33% average increase in visceral fat.

According to lead study author Gary Hunter, PhD, “Because other studies have reported that much longer training durations of 60 minutes a day are necessary to prevent weight regain, it’s not too surprising that weight regain was not totally prevented in this study. It’s encouraging, however, that this relatively small amount of exercise was sufficient to prevent visceral fat gain.”

For more information, read the article “Exercise Keeps Dangerous Visceral Fat Away A Year After Weight Loss, Study Finds” or see the study’s abstract in Obesity.

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