by: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
Unlike your money, where your fat is deposited is more important than how much you have. If it’s belly fat, that fat is actually deposited deep in your abdominal cavity. It’s not just under your skin and it’s more than muffin top filler. Instead, it fills in the spaces between your internal organs and has been associated with heightened risk for diabetes, cardiac disease, and cancer.
With two-thirds of the US population diagnosed with obesity, belly fat, also called visceral or liver fat, is a serious national health problem. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center may well have come up with an answer for those wanting to lose their dreaded fat.
Exercise physiologists at Duke compared three types of exercise common to gym goers—aerobic exercise, resistance training, and a combination of the two.
They discovered that aerobic training did the best job of ridding unhealthy visceral and liver fat, improving fasting insulin resistance, reducing liver enzymes and fasting triglyceride levels—all key factors in cardiac disease and diabetes.
Remember, “aerobic” or “cardio” exercise means “with air,” while resistance training or “anaerobic” means “without air.”
Resistance training without aerobic exercise demonstrated no significant reduction in these factors. Weight lifting may be great for improving your strength and lean body mass, but when it comes to reducing belly fat, it’s aerobic exercise that will do it according to this latest research. In fact, the combination of resistance training and aerobic exercise showed no significant difference from aerobic training alone.
How effective is aerobic training compared to resistance training? In this Duke University study, aerobic training burned 67% more calories than resistance training did. The researchers used 12 miles of jogging per week at 80% maximum heart level as the standard, and used three sets of 8-12 reps three times per week as the standard for resistance training. How much exercise you do, the miles you put in, appears to determine how many calories you will burn.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and Georgia State University offer the following to help determine heart rate training ranges:
How to Determine Your Heart Rate Training Range:
1. Heart Rate Reserve: The Karvonen Formula
• Find your Resting Heart Rate (RHR)
• Find your Predicted Maximal Heart Rate (HR max)
• HR max = 220 – age
• Find your Heart Rate Reserve (HRR)
• HRR = HR max – RHR
Find the lower limit of your Heart Rate Training Range:
• Multiply your HRR by 50% and add your RHR
• HRR x .50 + RHR = Low Target Heart Rate
Find the upper limit of your Heart Rate Training Range:
• Multiply your HRR by 85% and add your RHR
• HRR x .85 + RHR = High Target Heart Rate
2. Percent of Heart Rate Max:
• Find your Predicted Maximum Heart Rate (HR max)
• HR max = 220 – age
Find the lower limit of your Heart Rate Training Range
• Low Target Heart Rate = HR max X .50
Find the upper limit of your Heart Rate Training Range
High Target Heart Rate = HR max X .90
So, how can you create an effective aerobic exercise routine to help you in your fight against dreaded belly fat? Assuming your are healthy enough to do cardio training, keep in mind you want to use large muscle groups repetitively for a sustained period of time, 30-60 minutes three to five times per week, preferably high intensity interval training style.
A word about high intensity interval workouts (“H.I.I.T.”). These up and down, slow and fast, reps increase your resting metabolic rate in the 24 hours following high intensity exercise, which will burn even more calories than lower intensity exercise. Lower intensity exercise will burn more calories during the exercise but fewer afterwards.
Walking, cycling, treadmills, stair climbers, swimming, ski machines, ellipticals, steppers, rowing machines, jogging, aerobic dance are all examples of terrific aerobic exercise methods. Prefer outdoor cardio workouts? Try cross-country skiing, cycling, inline skating, or running. Kickboxing your thing? Jumping rope? Circuit training? All great aerobic exercise and all aimed at reducing that unhealthy deposit of belly fat.