CAM Archive: Effect of exercise intensity and belly fat

If you exercise enough, is it possible to selectively lose abdominal fat?

No, say researchers at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and the State University of New York at Buffalo.

First, the details.

  • 112 overweight and obese postmenopausal women participated.
    • Body mass index: 25-40 kg/m2
    • Waist circumference greater than 88 cm
  • They were assigned to a 20-week program.
    • Calorie restriction (CR only)
    • CR plus moderate-intensity aerobic exercise
    • CR plus vigorous-intensity exercise
  • Diet followed a controlled program of underfeeding during which meals were provided at individual calorie levels (about 400 kcal/day).
  • Exercise (3 days/week) involved treadmill walking at an intensity of 45% to 50% (moderate-intensity) or 70% to 75% (vigorous-intensity) of heart rate reserve.

And, the results.

  • Average weight loss did not differ across groups.
  • Maximal aerobic exercise capacity (VO2max) increased significantly more with CR + vigorous-intensity vs the other groups.
  • The CR-only group lost significantly more lean mass than either exercise group.
  • All groups showed significant but similar decreases in abdominal fat.
  • Changes in lipids, fasting blood sugar or insulin values were similar among the groups.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “There is not a preferential loss of abdominal fat when either moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise is performed during caloric restriction.”

2/23/09 19:57 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.