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Raising Your Treadmill Incline Cuts Belly Fat and Diabetes Risk

Tim Boyer's picture
Readmill and belly fat

A recent study shows that raising your treadmill incline has the added benefit of not only cutting belly fat, but also your risk of developing diabetes. Here is the latest on just how much extra effort you need to add to your treadmill routine.


In a new study published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers discovered that making a simple change to your treadmill routine can positively affect how your body handles its blood sugar levels. This is especially important in light of a study that shows how many cans of soda a day it takes to make someone diabetic.

According to a statement made to Time magazine, the study’s lead author Robert Ross, a professor in the school of kinesiology and health studies at Queens University in Ontario explains that exercise is a must in the prevention of becoming insulin resistant, which if not prevented eventually leads to full-blown diabetes.

“The ability to manage blood sugar is a direct consequence of a couple of things, including the ability of the muscles to take glucose out of the blood and store it for use as fuel,” said Dr. Ross. “As we become sedentary, our muscles become sedentary, too, and we can become insulin resistant.”

The study involved nearly 300 patients who suffer from abdominal obesity. While past studies have shown that exercise can reduce belly fat and glucose intolerance, it was unknown whether upping the intensity of exercising would make any difference in the health benefits received.

To put exercise intensity to the test, the obese patients were randomly divided into 4 groups that consisted of:

• High amount, high-intensity exercise
• High amount, low-intensity exercise
• Low amount, low-intensity exercise
• No exercise program at all

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All study participants worked out five days a week for 24 weeks without dieting during the study period. Their exercise routine was limited to walking on treadmills, where the level of intensity of the exercise was adjusted by increasing the incline of the treadmill.

The high-amount groups were required to exercise until a certain amount of calories were burned each day. For men the calorie count was 600 calories; for women it was 360 calories. High intensity required working out at 75 percent of their age adjusted maximum heart rate. For a 50 year-old, that would be a heart rate of approximately 130.

The low amount, low-intensity group exercised for as long as it took for the men to burn 300 calories and the women 180 calories at an intensity where the heart rate was approximately 120 beats per minute—only 10 beats per minute less than the high intensity group.

The results of the study showed that while all participants who exercised lost weight and belly fat approximately equally, only the group performing the high-intensity workouts on the treadmill achieved improvements in their 2-hour glucose level measurements.

In addition, according to some studies, high-intensity exercise causes a more intense “after-burn” that is fueled mostly by fat and can last up to a day or two after your workout.

The authors concluded that exercise independent of intensity results in approximately equal amounts of belly fat lost, but that blood glucose levels significantly improve when the intensity is raised during exercise.

To put it simply for patients, Dr. Ross advises 40 minutes of brisk walking five times a week to not only help reduce belly fat, but to also improve how your body manages its blood sugar levels.

Reference: “Effects of Exercise Amount and Intensity on Abdominal Obesity and Glucose Tolerance in Obese Adults: A Randomized Trial Effects of Exercise on Obesity and Glucose Intolerance” Annals of Internal Medicine 3 March 2015, Vol. 162. No. 5; Robert Ross, et al.