If belly fat is piling up and you long to ditch the bulge fast, hitting the treadmill is a good idea. While the exercise can help remove both subcutaneous fat -- the kind you can pinch -- and the visceral fat beneath your abdominal muscles, it could have a stronger effect on the visceral variety.
About Visceral Fat
Besides expanding your belly, visceral fat has some nasty side effects, according to Harvard Medical School. It's more active than subcutaneous fat, and secretes hormones and chemicals that cause inflammation. These substances spread throughout the body, and may increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma and breast cancer. Women with a waist circumference of 35 inches or larger are likely to have dangerous levels of visceral fat.
Treadmills and Visceral Fat
The treadmill is a go-to machine for cardio exercise, which can help you lose the visceral fat and keep it off for good. In a study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, researchers tested visceral fat levels of participants who dieted to lose weight. Along with cutting calories, one group performed aerobic exercise, another group performed weight training and a third group did not exercise. All subjects lost both visceral and subcutaneous fat throughout the diet portion of the study, for an average weight loss of 24 pounds. However, the exercise groups were instructed to keep working out for the next year. Although all groups regained some weight, those who kept exercising were the only ones who didn't regain any visceral fat.
Using the treadmill is a good start in your visceral-fat battle, but there's plenty more you can do. Add total strength training to your routine twice weekly, and eat a balanced diet with low-calorie, high-nutrient foods like fruits, veggies, lean proteins and whole grains. Harvard also recommends removing trans fats and glucose-sweetened fare from your plate, as both are linked to visceral fat. Stress can also widen your waistline, so relax with meditation or deep breathing exercises. Get seven to eight hours of shuteye each night, and ditch the cigarettes if you smoke.
For optimal fat blasting, spend an hour a day, five days per week on the treadmill or performing other aerobic activities. If you walk, maintain a brisk pace and consider gradually incorporate jogging intervals to up your calorie burn. Practice good posture on the treadmill to avoid injury -- face forward instead of looking down, and keep your shoulders back and your abdominal muscles engaged. If you don't currently exercise or you have any health concerns, see your doctor before starting a new workout program.
- University of Alabama at Birmingham: Exercise Keeps Dangerous Visceral Fat Away a Year After Weight Loss, Finds UAB Study
- Harvard Health Publications: Taking Aim at Belly Fat
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour
- American College of Sports Medicine: Selecting and Effectively Using a HomeTreadmill
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.