While weight training can help you lose weight and tone your muscles, if you want to get rid of your stubborn belly fat, also known as visceral fat or abdominal fat, aerobic exercise may be more beneficial. Belly fat, or increased fat deposits around your midsection and internal organs, has been long known to cause an increased risk of developing cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Also known as intra-abdominal fat, it is typically found around your midsection. The fat is sandwiched in between your organs including your liver, stomach and intestines. It differs from fat found elsewhere on your body and under your skin, known as subcutaneous fat, and fat within your muscles, or intramuscular fat.
It is important to know what constitutes aerobic exercise versus resistance training. Any activity that elevates your heart rate and requires an increased work effort from the lungs and heart to pump oxygen throughout your body is known as aerobic exercise. Skipping, jogging, cycling, running, swimming and rowing are all types of aerobic exercise that, when performed, lead to an increased demand for oxygen. On the other hand, resistance training is any type of activity that requires you to use your muscles against another force or weight in order to make your muscles larger and stronger. Push-ups, chin-ups, weight training and using elastic or hydraulic devices to move or hold your position are all forms of resistance training.
Not much research exists regarding the difference between weight training and aerobic exercise, but Duke University scientists decided to take the plunge and research the comparisons and changes of visceral fat. The study, published in the American Journal of Physiology, took 198 adults between 18 and 70 years of age who were diagnosed as overweight and lived a sedentary lifestyle, and divided them into three groups. One group performed weight exercises, specifically three sets of eight to 12 repetitions per set, three times per week over the course of eight months. A second group ran 12 miles per week to obtain an 80 percent maximum heart rate and a third group combined the two previous forms of exercise. All groups were monitored closely to ensure that each participant was actively taking part in the study.
At the end of the study, researchers found that those who were in the aerobic exercise group lost fat around the liver and high amounts of visceral and abdominal fat. They also noticed better insulin resistance and reduced liver enzymes and other triglyceride levels. These factors, if not controlled, can lead to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
On the other hand, those who lifted weights three times per week lost a lower amount of fat, but did not improve anywhere else in terms of their overall health condition. There was no change in regard to the participants’ visceral fat or liver enzymes levels, or any increase or decrease in insulin resistance. The group who combined the two forms of exercise reported similar results as the aerobic group. Researchers also noted that participating in some form of aerobic training such as jogging burned, on average, 67 percent more calories when compared to calories burned through weight lifting and resistance training.
While resistance training is more beneficial if you are trying to increase your muscle mass, improve your strength and sculpt your core, aerobic exercise is significantly better to engage in if you want to lose fat, particularly belly fat. While there is no way to tell scientifically and accurately just how much visceral fat you have around your midsection, a good indication of the amount is gauged by the presence of a “beer belly.” Typically, men seem to have more of this type of fat than women do, although many women often suffer from it as well. Researchers also noted that individuals of white descent have more visceral fat than those of African American descent. Older people are also more likely to internalize and reuse the amount of visceral fat on their bodies, whereas visceral fat on young adults is more noticeable because it seems to be right under their skin.