The Princeton Longevity Center Medical News
Exercise Critical to Melt
It may be unattractive, but the fat that keeps people from fitting into their
clothes isn't the worst kind. The most dangerous fat lies around the organs,
deep within the belly.
And a new study shows that even moderate exercise helps postmenopausal women
who want to get rid of that intra-abdominal fat and in the process reduce
their risk for some chronic illnesses.
"Women who tend to have more fat deep inside are at higher risk for heart
disease, diabetes as well as cancer," said Dr. Pamela Peeke, author of "Fight
Fat After Forty." The risk seems most elevated for breast, colon and uterine
Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, studied 173
sedentary, overweight women between 50 and 75 years old over the course of a
year to see whether exercise that shaves off outward bulges can reduce
internal fat as well.
Half of the women participated in aerobic activity for a year, while the rest
attended a weekly stretching class. Those in the aerobic exercise class saw
"The women who were in the exercise group significantly lowered their amount
of body fat and significantly lowered the amount of intra-abdominal fat," said
Dr. Anne McTiernan, director of Fred Hutchinson's Prevention Center and lead
researcher of the study.
After a year, the exercisers lost between 3.4 percent and 6.9 percent of
intra-abdominal fat while maintaining their calorie intake, according to the
study, published in this week's issue of Journal of the American Medical
Association and funded by the National Cancer Institute.
"Women got the most benefit if they did the full program -- 45 minutes a day,
five days a week -- but women still got a benefit if they did as little as 30
minutes a day," McTiernan said.
For years, doctors have known that "apple-shaped" people who store their fat
around the stomach are at higher risk for chronic conditions than
"pear-shaped" people -- those who store fat in their buttocks and thighs. But
intra-abdominal obesity doesn't always correlate with body shape, McTiernan
So how can people tell if they have too much fat deep in the belly? Peeke
offers a simple, do-it-yourself test.
"Take your fingers, touch your pelvic bones, contract your abdominal muscle
wall and you can basically just kind of sneak it across, right across your
abdominal muscle wall and see if it's your abdominal muscle wall that's
sticking out," she said. It's the fat that pushes those muscles out.
There may not be a lot of movement on the scale when burning off this kind of
fat, but researchers said the results will be years added to a person's life.
"Even if a woman who exercises regularly doesn't see the benefits of dramatic
weight loss on her scale, ... we now know that exercise reduces hidden
intra-abdominal fat, the most dangerous type," McTiernan said in a statement.
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