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your look ● fitness The Belly of the Beast Through basic aerobic workouts, you can utilize oxygen to burn away your excess belly fat and work toward a toned and sculpted physique I magine for a moment that you’re working up a sweat, you’re breathing hard, your heart is pounding while blood is coursing through your veins to deliver oxygen to the muscles to keep you moving, as you sustain the activity for the next 20 minutes. That’s aerobic exer- cise, also known as “cardio” in gym lingo, or simply any ac- tivity that you can perform for more a certain length of time while your heart, lungs and muscles work overtime. So how do you get the most from your aerobic exercise to burn off that excess belly fat? THE SCIENCE OF EXERCISE When researchers at Duke University in North Caroli- na monitored people who did aerobic exercise for eight months, compared to those who did solely weight training, the former group lost almost 20 times as much fat around their stomachs. The aerobics group lost around 2.5 square inches of belly fat, and a group that combined both aerobic and weight lifting lost only 1.5 square inches. Researcher Cris Slentz reported: “Resistance training is great for improving strength and increasing lean body mass. But aerobic exercise is better for losing belly fat because it burns more calories.” The study also concluded that those who combined weight lifting and aerobics didn’t see any further health benefits than those who only did aerobic, in terms of insulin resistance and liver fat. The researchers therefore found that aerobic exercise alone is more beneficial for obese and over- weight individuals for fat loss. Researchers defined ‘belly fat’ as visceral fat, which is found deep in the stomach and surrounds the internal or- 94 PAGEANTRY gans, as opposed to subcutaneous fat that is found under- neath the skin. Visceral fat poses more of a threat to health, as it lies closer to the organs and is associated with diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. The study at Duke, which will be published in the American Journal of Physiology Endocrinology and Me- tabolism, looked at 196 overweight, sedentary adults be- tween the ages of 18 and 70, who were divided into the three exercise groups. Slentz added: “When it comes to increased health risks, where fat is deposited in the body is more important than how much fat you have. What really counts is how much exercise you do, how many miles you walk and how many calories you burn. “If you choose to walk at a lower aerobic intensity, it will simply take longer to burn the same amount of un- healthy fat.” STARTING YOUR ENGINES It all starts with your breathing. The average healthy adult inhales and exhales about 7 to 8 liters of air per minute. Once you fill your lungs, the oxygen in the air (air contains approximately 20% oxygen) is filtered through small branches of tubes (called bronchioles) until it reaches the alveoli. The alveoli are microscopic sacs where oxygen enters into the blood. From there, it’s a beeline directly to the heart.