ISLAMABAD (Online): Exercising may not make you lose weight – but it will rid you of hidden internal fat stored around your internal organs, a study has found.
A study of fitness programs revealed that carrying out between two to six months of endurance training led people to lose either nothing or a minimal amount of weight.
But the good news was it cut hidden internal ‘visceral fat’ that cloaks our organs and can lead to health problems – particularly type 2 diabetes and heart and circulatory disease.
The findings highlight how some people can appear healthy, but are actually ‘thin on the outside but fat on the inside’.
Such people will still have a higher risk of disease because they do not exercise.
A study of fitness programs revealed that carrying out between two to six months of endurance training led people to lose either nothing or a minimal amount of weight
The authors argue that while we are often advised to lose weight, visceral fat may be a bigger threat to our health.
So cutting calories is all very well, but getting off the couch and getting some exercise is more important.
Researchers from Liverpool John Moores University and Radboud University in the Netherlands evaluated 117 recent studies.
These had all looked at the effects of fitness programmes, calorie reduction or both – and the effects on weight and body composition.
They found that after two to six months exercise training the average weight reduction was just 1 per cent of total weight – with the range of weight loss across studies between zero and 4kg (8.8lbs).
But the really significant improvement was in visceral fat.
Even in the absence of any change in weight, carrying out an exercise programme resulted in a 6 per cent reduction in visceral fat – with every 1 per cent of weight loss leading to further reductions in visceral fat.
But exercise does cut the hidden internal ‘visceral fat’ that cloaks our organs and can lead to health problems – particularly type 2 diabetes and heart and circulatory disease
To illustrate the difference, the authors say if you lost 5 per cent in body weight after exercise training, you would reduce your visceral fat by 21.3 per cent.
But if you lost 5 per cent by calorie reduction alone, your visceral fat would drop by just 13.4 per cent.
The reason why exercise may not lead to weight loss is it can increase muscle – which weighs more than fat.
Dieting alone will cut fat, but also result in a loss of muscle, the authors note.
The research was published in the journal Obesity Reviews.
The authors write that when comparing exercise training and cutting calories, ‘dietary restriction has superior effects on weight reduction.
‘However a growing body of evidence shows excess visceral adipose tissue [visceral fat]may result in more detrimental obesity-related health effects than excess body weight. ‘
The authors warn doctors should not think that just because an exercise regime has not reduced a patient’s weight it has been ineffective.
They said: ‘Our data therefore strongly indicate that, in clinical practice, caution should be taken when interpreting (lack in) changes of body weight after exercise training interventions.
‘Incorrect conclusions can potentially lead to recommendations or suggestions that the exercise intervention was unsuccessful, despite the presence of a marked effect on body composition.’
Professor Dick Thijssen, co-author of the research said: ‘These results clearly demonstrate the powerful effect of exercise training on your body composition cannot be detected by your weighing scale.
‘Don’t let your weighing scale mislead you, especially when exercise training caused you to be fitter, resulted in a better fit in your old jeans and markedly improved your health risks.’