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Easy Belly Fat Weight Loss Tactic Works, Say Scientists

Tim Boyer's picture

In a new study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, scientists report that one way to lose weight or prevent weight gain and becoming obese is to incorporate short bouts of high-intensity exercise throughout a day. According to their findings, such exercise can have as much of an effect on keeping off weight and fighting belly fat as does the current recommendation of exercising for 10 or more minutes at a time.

Data collected from over 4,000 study participants wearing accelerometers to monitor their level of physical activity revealed that how intense you work out is more important than how long you work out when it comes to weight control.

An accelerometer is a small electronic movement monitor that can be attached to a person’s belt, wrist, ankle or shoe that measures and records the intensity of physical activity. The accelerometer differs from a pedometer in that it is able to distinguish between walking and running on level terrain and thereby provide a more accurate assessment of actual physical activity. Sensors within an accelerometer converts movements made during exercise into electrical signals (counts) that are proportional to the muscular force producing motion.

However, the accelerometer is designed for measuring only levels of inactivity while at rest and levels of activity while either walking or running. Activity levels from lifting weights or riding a bicycle are not accurately assessed with an accelerometer.

“What we learned is that for preventing weight gain, the intensity of the activity matters more than duration,” says Jessie X. Fan, professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah. “This new understanding is important because fewer than 5 percent of American adults today achieve the recommended level of physical activity in a week according to the current physical activity guidelines. Knowing that even short bouts of ‘brisk’ activity can add up to a positive effect is an encouraging message for promoting better health.”

According to a news release from the University of Utah, the current recommended guideline requires that each person gets at least 150 minutes of MVPA (Moderate-to-Vigorous Physical Activity) that can be accumulated in 8-10 minute bouts of activity throughout a week. Reaching this amount of exercise requires a reading of 2,020 counts per minute on an accelerometer. What the researchers found was that the majority of Americans do not reach their minimum MVPA when exercising at least 8-10 minutes at a time, but do reach or exceed the minimum when they add in shorter bouts of higher-intensity activity.

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In the study, the body mass index (BMI) of 2,202 women and 2,309 men was compared between groupings in which the participants were categorized based on their activity levels. The four groupings were:

• High-intensity long bouts (greater than 10 minutes exertion at greater than 2,020 counts per minutes (CPM)
• High-intensity short bouts (less than 10 minutes at greater than 2,020 CPM)
• Low-intensity long bouts (greater than 10 minutes and less than 2,019 CPM)
• Low-intensity short bouts (less than 10 minutes and less than 2,019 CPM)

What the researchers found was that both short bouts and long bouts of high-intensity physical activity resulted in lower BMIs and a lowered risk of being overweight or obese. Neither short bouts or long bouts of lower-intensity activity benefited BMI outcomes or lowered the risk of being overweight or obese.

Furthermore, according to the University of Utah news release what the data showed was that each daily minute spent in high-intensity short bouts correlated with a decrease of 0.07 BMI or a calorie equivalent of 0.41 pounds. In more practical terms, this translates roughly to a comparison of two women of equal height of 5-feet and 5-inches, where the woman who adds in a minute of brisk activity to her day will weigh nearly a half-pound less than the woman who does not. In addition, each minute of high-intensity activity lowers the odds of obesity by 5 percent and 2 percent in women and men respectively.

For additional information about the benefits of increasing intensity during exercise to fight belly fat, click-on the titled link, “New Belly Fat Weight Loss Exercise Takes Less Time and Works Better, Say Researchers.”

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References: “Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity and Weight Outcomes: Does Every Minute Count?” American Journal of Health Promotion, Published Online First doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.4278/ajhp.120606-QUAL-286; Jessie X. Fan et al