The optimal amount of exercise you need to do each week to keep belly fat at bay

Visceral fat, also known as belly fat, is far more deadly than its counterpart – subcutaneous fat. The latter lies just below the surface, whereas visceral fat often surrounds vital organs, such as the liver and intestines. This means storing too much of it can interfere with vital processes; hiking your risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease.

Exercise is an effective weapon against visceral fat build-up.

According to Harvard Health, moderate-intensity physical activity and strength training both take aim at belly fat.

Losing belly fat is only half the battle, however. The more formidable challenge is stopping it from returning.

Research suggests there is an optional amount of exercise you need to do each week to keep belly fat at bay.

A study conducted by exercise physiologists in the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Department of Human Studies found that 80 minutes a week of aerobic or resistance training helps not only to prevent weight gain, but stop harmful visceral fat returning one year after weight loss.

In the study, published in the journal Obesity, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB exercise physiologist Gary Hunter, Ph.D., and his team randomly assigned 45 European-American and 52 African-American women to three groups: aerobic training, resistance training or no exercise.

All of the participants were placed on an 800 calorie-a-day diet and lost an average 24 pounds.

Researchers then measured total fat, abdominal subcutaneous fat and visceral fat for each participant.

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Afterward, participants in the two exercise groups were asked to continue exercising 40 minutes twice a week for one year.

After a year, the study’s participants were divided into five groups: those who maintained aerobic exercise training, those who stopped aerobic training, those who maintained their resistance training, those who stopped resistance training and those who were never placed on an exercise regimen.

“What we found was that those who continued exercising, despite modest weight regains, regained zero percent visceral fat a year after they lost the weight,” Hunter said.

He continued: “But those who stopped exercising, and those who weren’t put on any exercise regimen at all, averaged about a 33 percent increase in visceral fat.”

“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.”

The other crucial component aspect of keeping visceral fat a bay is to eat a healthy, balanced diet.

“Pay attention to portion size, and emphasise complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) and lean protein over simple carbohydrates such as white bread, refined-grain pasta, and sugary drinks,” says the NHS.

In fact, lowering your carb-intake altogether seems to provide the greatest benefit.

Many studies have shown that low-carb diets are more effective at reducing visceral fat than low-fat diets.

In an eight-week study including 69 overweight men and women, scientists found that people who followed a low-carb diet lost 10 percent more visceral fat and 4.4 percent more total fat than those on a low-fat diet.

A low-carb diet is one that reduces carbs, primarily found in sugary foods, pasta, and bread.

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