Frequent, Vigorous Exercise Reduces Accumulation of Visceral Fat
Visceral fat, or fat that surrounds the abdomen and other internal organs, is considered a significant contributor to a variety of weight-related health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
Regular exercise is known to provide a wide range of health benefits, including weight loss and reduction of total body fat. Despite this evidence, few studies have examined the direct effects of exercise programs on changes in visceral fat levels.
In this randomized, controlled study, 175 sedentary adults ages 40 to 65, all considered overweight or mildly obese, and all with mild to moderate dyslipidemia, were assigned to participate in a control group for 6 months, or to one of three exercise groups (low amount/moderate intensity, equivalent to walking 12 miles per week; low amount/vigorous intensity, equivalent to jogging 12 miles per week; or high amount/vigorous intensity, equivalent to jogging 20 miles per week). Computed tomography scans were performed pre- and post-study to analyze changes in visceral fat, subcutaneous abdominal fat, and total abdominal fat.
"In the control group, visceral fat levels increased by 8.6%, which was statistically significant. Visceral fat levels did not change significantly in either of the low-amount exercise groups. The high-amount exercise group experienced an average decrease in visceral fat of 6.9%, which was significant. Only the high-amount exercise had any change in subcutaneous abdominal fat amount, which decreased in this group by 7.0%."
"Taken together, the data suggest a clear dose-response relationship between exercise amount and changes in visceral fat," the authors concluded. The authors also emphasized that "even a relatively modest exercise program, consistent with the activity recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and American College of Sports Medicine, prevented significant increased in visceral fat," and recommended that "until we are able to prevent weight regain after short-term dieting success, a greater emphasis toward prevention should be a major goal in the U.S."
Slentz CA, Aiken LB, Houmard JA, et al. Inactivity, exercise, and visceral fat. STRRIDE: a randomized, controlled study of exercise intensity and amount. Journal of Applied Physiology