How to lose visceral fat: The ‘best’ exercise plan to reduce the belly fat

Dr Zoe Williams discusses visceral fat on This Morning

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Visceral fat wraps around abdominal organs, such as the liver and intestines. Due to its location, visceral fat makes up one part of metabolic syndrome – a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, you can reduce the harmful belly fat committing to an exercise plan.

Any form of exercise is better than nothing but research suggests there is an optimal approach.

“According to the experts, your best bet is to combine two types,” says health body Johns Hopkins Medicine.

They are:

  • Aerobic exercise
  • Strength training (also called “resistance training”) such as weight lifting.

A six-month study conducted by Johns Hopkins Medicine supports this assertion.

For the study, 104 men and women were enrolled. They walked on a treadmill or cycled, and combined this with strength training.

The participants lost an average of less than five pounds of weight on the scale.

However, they lost about 18 percent of their belly fat. This was measured using MRI scan – a type of scan that produces detailed images of the inside of the body.

In contrast, those in the no-exercise group lost no belly fat.

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What’s more, the combined effect of aerobic and strength training was not confined to visceral fat reduction.

Those in the exercise group also experienced improved chronic disease markers.

These included:

  • Blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Insulin resistance.

What counts as moderate aerobic activity?

According to the NHS, moderate 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 health body.

Examples of moderate intensity activities:

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

What constitutes strength training?

“There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether you’re at home or in a gym,” says the NHS.

Examples of muscle-strengthening activities:

  • Carrying heavy shopping bags
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Tai chi
  • Lifting weights
  • Working with resistance bands
  • Doing exercises that use your own body weight, such as push-ups and sit-ups
  • Heavy gardening, such as digging and shovelling
  • Wheeling a wheelchair
  • Lifting and carrying children.

Key dietary tips

In addition to getting physically active, eating a healthy, balanced diet is integral to losing the belly fat.

According to Bupa, protein can be a helpful way to lose weight because it makes you feel fuller than carbs and fat do.

“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,” the health body says.

It also says to:

  • Make sure you eat a balanced diet. Try to eat at least five portions of fruit and veg each day, and include higher-fibre starchy foods in meals
  • Have some reduced-fat dairy 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.

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