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Aerobic Exercise Better at Banishing Belly Fat

Want to lose the deep belly fat that comes with a whole load of health issues? Aerobic exercise beats out resistance training when it comes to shedding visceral fat, a new study finds.

Those are some of the findings of an eight-month study that compared the effectiveness of aerobic exercise, resistance training, and combinations of the two activities.

The participants, 196 overweight, sedentary adults aged 18 to 70 were randomly separated into three groups based on exercise type: aerobics only, resistance only, and a combination of both. The participants in the aerobic group performed the equivalent of 12 miles of jogging each week at 80 percent maximum heart rate. Those in the resistance exercise-only group peformed three sets of eight to 12 repetitions, three times each week. The combination group performed both types of workout.

The purpose of the eight month study conducted by researchers at The Duke University Medical Center was to examine how these different types of exercise reduced the viscreral and liver fat -- the type within the abdomen that occupies the spaces between internal organs. This type of fat has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and several types of cancer.

Aerobic exercise alone was found to burn 67% more calories than resistance training alone, the study found. And aerobic exercise was found to be more efficient at reducing visceral and liver fat and improved risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, such as insulin resistance, liver enzymes and triglyceride levels. Resistance training didn't deliver these benefits, according to the results of the study. Aerobic exercise and resistance training combined achieved results similar to aerobic exercise alone, the researchers found. The combination group showed a greater total belly fat reduction than the aerobic training alone group, but also less visceral fat reduction than the aerobic-only group.

While the disparity in the amount of calories burned might come as no surprise, the study, results of which were published in the Aug. 25 issue of the American Journal of Physiology  also showed that aerobic exercise was better than resistance training at improving fasting insulin resistance, as well as reducing liver enzymes and fasting triglyceride levels -- all known risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. In comparison, resistance training alone showed no significant drops in visceral fat, liver fat, liver enzyme levels or increases in insulin resistance.  

The study found that those who performed a combination of aerobic with resistance training achieved results similar to aerobic training alone, suggesting that both types of exercise have their place in health maintenance.

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