A new study confirms that doing something as simple as brisk walking can boost weight loss while trimming dangerous belly fat and overall body fat.
Scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle followed 102 men and 100 women for a year. At the beginning, the participants, ages 40 to 75, were sedentary and unfit. They were divided into two groups: One was encouraged to do 60 minutes of physical activity a day, six days a week; the other was given no specific exercise advice. There was no diet plan.
Among the findings, presented in Phoenix at last month's annual meeting of the Obesity Society, a national group of weight-loss researchers and professionals:
  • Women who increased their activity level by an additional 3,500 steps a day lost 5 pounds during the year.
  • Men who added that many steps lost 8½ pounds in a year.
  • The exercisers who did the most — 60 minutes, six days a week — decreased their belly fat by 10% to 20%.
  • Those same exercisers trimmed 10% to 15% of their overall body fat without losing muscle mass.
"Both men and women can lose weight and body fat with exercise, which is a good start to reversing the weight-gain course that most Americans are on," says lead researcher Anne McTiernan, an internist and director of the Prevention Center at Fred Hutchinson. She has done previous research that shows regular physical activity significantly reduces belly fat, possibly lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and some types of cancer.
Experts believe the fat cells deep in the abdomen are harmful because they secrete chemicals that play a role in a number of diseases. The cells produce about three times more bad chemicals than subcutaneous fat, the stuff you can pinch right under your skin, says Timothy Church, director of preventive medicine research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.
"Plus, the plumbing of visceral fat drains directly to the liver, allowing the bad chemicals to directly interfere with the liver's ability to metabolize blood sugar and cholesterol," he says.
In addition to lowering the risk of many serious medical conditions, regular physical activity also improves quality of life by reducing stress, depression and anxiety, and by improving bone and joint health, sex drive, sleep and memory, Church says.
News release provided by USA Today. Visit USAtoday.com for more headlines.


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