Dr Zoe Williams discusses visceral fat on This Morning
Visceral fat is both harmful and stubborn because it is stored near vital organs in the body. Although it is harder to get at than the fat you can see, it too is no match for exercise. How intensely you need to workout is often a source of uncertainty but a study published in the journal Hindawi has provided an answer.
The study compared the effect of prolonged moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) on reducing abdominal visceral fat in obese young women with that of high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
Forty-three participants received either HIIT, MICT or no training for 12 weeks.
The abdominal visceral fat area and abdominal subcutaneous fat area (the fat you can pinch) of the participants were measured pre-intervention and post-intervention.
Following HIIT and MICT, comparable reductions in both visceral and subcutaneous fat were observed.
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“MICT consisting of prolonged sessions has no quantitative advantage, compared with that resulting from HIIT, in abdominal visceral fat reduction,” the researchers concluded.
However, HIIT appears to have a slight advantage over MICT due to its time efficiency, the researchers added.
Moderate intensity and high intensity – what’s the difference?
Moderate activity will raise your heart rate, and make you breathe faster and feel warmer.
Examples of moderate intensity activities:
- Brisk walking
- Water aerobics
- Riding a bike
- Doubles tennis
- Pushing a lawn mower
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High intensity interval training, or HIIT, is a short workout that involves doing quick bursts of exercise at a high intensity, followed by a period of light exercise or rest, and alternating between the two.
Examples of HIIT include:
- Lifting heavy weights
- Circuit training
- Sprinting up hills
- Interval running
- Running up stairs
- Spinning classes.
How much to do
According to Harvard Health, engaging in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity most days, such as brisk walking or bicycling at a casual pace, can help.
Exercise can also help keep fat from coming back, evidence suggests.
In a study at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, dieting women lost an average of 24 pounds and reduced both visceral and subcutaneous fat, 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 to reduce visceral fat
In addition to regular exercise, it is also vital to eat a healthy diet to enhance the benefits.
“Try to eat at least five portions of fruit and veg each day, and include higher-fibre starchy foods in meals,” advises Bupa.
Other key dietary tips include:
- 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.
You should also cut out sports drinks, sugar sweetened drinks and other foods that have a lot of added sugar in them, advises Bupa.
“Be aware that low-fat options might have high amounts of added sugar in them,” adds the health body.
It adds: “If you want to lose weight or meet specific fitness goals, you might need to exercise more.”
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