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Couch potatoes with fat pockets

Washington, May 29 (Reuters): Everyone knows that lazing around can lead to a growing potbelly, but US researchers said yesterday that couch potatoes build up dangerous pockets of fat more quickly than anyone thought.

But the good news — or perhaps the bad news — is that vigorous exercise can take it off pretty quickly, the team at Duke University in North Carolina reported.

The team of experts looked at visceral fat — that hidden flab tucked in among the organs. It is often invisible, but unlike an obvious paunch or heavy thighs, it is linked with insulin resistance — pre-diabetes — and heart disease.

Speaking to a meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in San Francisco, Cris Slentz said he was surprised at how rapidly fat accumulated deep in the abdomens of patients who did not exercise.

Volunteers who did no exercise had an 8.6 per cent increase in visceral fat after eight months, while those who exercised the most lost 8.1 per cent of their visceral fat, Slentz said.

“The results of our investigation show that in sedentary overweight adults, who continue to choose a sedentary lifestyle, the detrimental effects are worse and more rapid than we previously thought,” Slentz said in a statement.

“We probably should not have been surprised since this simply mirrors the increasingly rapid rise in obesity prevalence seen in the US, where at present two out of three adults are overweight or obese.”

Women gained fat twice as quickly as the men did, Slentz said. Exercise takes the fat away quickly, but it has to be pretty vigorous, Slentz and colleagues found.

“Participants who exercised at a level equivalent to 28 km of jogging each week saw significant declines in visceral fat, subcutaneous abdominal fat and total abdominal fat,” Slentz said.

“While this may seem like a lot of exercise, our previously sedentary and overweight subjects were quite capable of doing this amount.”

They studied 170 volunteers, putting them into four groups who got no exercise, small amounts of moderate exercise equivalent to walking 11 miles a week, low amounts of vigorous exercise equivalent to jogging 11 miles a week and a lot of vigorous exercise equivalent to jogging 17 miles a week.

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