Fat comes in two forms – visceral and subcutaneous, and the former poses significantly higher health risks than the latter. The two types of fat can be distinguished by their positioning on the body, with visceral fat located deep under the surface, near internal organs including the liver, stomach, and intestines, and subcutaneous fat lying just under the surface. Visceral fat’s proximity to internal organs means that carrying excess amounts can trigger a number of life-threatening complications.
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It is therefore important to make healthy lifestyle decisions to reduce your risk of developing visceral fat and to get rid of it if you are carrying it.
Fitness plays an essential role in reducing the harmful belly fat, but, like diet, the advice can sometimes seem overwhelming and conflicting.
To clear up any confusion and gain an insight into the best exercise to beat the harmful belly fat, Express.co.uk spoke to Dr Leon Creaney, Sports and Exercise Medicine Consultant at The OrthTeam Centre.
According to Dr Creaney, the key point to bear in mind when embarking on any form of exercise is that the body preferentially uses different fuels depending on the intensity of exercise.
High-intensity exercise, for example, requires faster energy delivery so is more reliant on carbohydrate to fuel the body, explained Dr Creaney.
Exercising at a lower intensity, however, relies on fat metabolism, which is slower, he said.
“Therefore to burn fat, it is recommended that people do long duration but low-intensity exercise. For example running at a slow pace for one hour. The same can be said for cycling and swimming at the same heart rate. Brisk walking is also good,” advised Dr Creaney.
Studies support the visceral fat-burning benefits of endurance training, such as one study conducted by the University Hospital of Ulm in Germany.
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The researchers of the study followed runners taking part in the Trans Europe Footrace, a multi-day long-distance ultramarathon that consists of running across Europe.
Each participant carried with them a each carrying with them a mobile MRI uniT – a sophisticated device that produced detailed images of the body’s internal structures.
Every three or four days the runners underwent a full body scan that allowed scientists to track how their body composition changed as the race went on.
Significantly, over the course of 64 days, runners lost half their total body fat and the first thing to start disappearing was visceral fat, 70 per cent of which had gone by the end of the event.
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“When you just begin running, the effects of fat reduction are more pronounced than in athletes who have been running their whole life,” Dr. Schütz said.
He added: “But you should do this sport constantly over the years. If you stop running for a long time, you need to reduce your caloric input or opt for other aerobic exercises to avoid experiencing weight gain.”
As Dr Creaney pointed out, while exercise is a tried-and-tested way to reduce visceral fat, eating a poor diet can undo the progress, causing the body to retain the harmful belly fat.
Numerous studies recommend following a low-carb diet to reduce visceral fat, which consists of proteins, including meat, poultry, fish and eggs, and some non starchy vegetables.
A low-carb diet generally excludes or limits most grains, legumes, fruits, breads, sweets, pastas and starchy vegetables, and sometimes nuts and seeds, according to the Mayo Clinic.
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.
Additionally, the ketogenic diet, which is a very low-carb, high-fat diet, may also help reduce visceral fat.
A study including 28 overweight and obese adults found that those who followed a ketogenic diet lost more fat, especially visceral fat, than people following a low-fat diet.
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