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Does Running Burn Belly Fat?

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
Does Running Burn Belly Fat?
Running is good for your cardiovascular health. Photo Credit Witthaya/iStock/Getty Images

Deep, visceral fat in the belly feels firm to the touch and protrudes past your waistline. Men who have a waist larger than 40 inches and women with one larger than 35 inches have dangerously high levels of belly fa,t and losing it should be a top priority for health.

Losing belly fat requires commitment to diet and exercise, and what a better way to exercise than running? After all, you're working hard, burning calories and covering lots of ground.

Running can help you burn belly fat, but it can't be your only strategy. Use it as part of a comprehensive belly-fat loss program.

The Belly Fat Issue

Belly fat is usually composed of two different types of fat: The deep, visceral fat that winds in and around your organs, and the pinchable subcutaneous fat that makes up your love handles. Both are a scourge on your physique, but it's the deep kind that's most dangerous to your health.

Measure your waist to see if you have dangerous levels of belly fat.
Measure your waist to see if you have dangerous levels of belly fat. Photo Credit champja/iStock/Getty Images

Deep, visceral belly fat acts almost like an endocrine organ, notes the Harvard Medical School. It releases inflammatory compounds into your body, raising your risk of chronic disease including heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes.

While losing subcutaneous fat does a lot for your figure and ego, losing deep visceral fat improves your health and may protect you from long-term diseases.

Read More: How Many Calories Do You Lose Per Mile

Loss Through Exercise

When you burn more calories than you consume, your body must dip into your fat stores to fuel activity. Running is a good calorie-burner, with a 180-pound person sizzling 355 calories in 30 minutes at a pace of 5 mph and 444 calories when going 6 mph. Burning 3,500 calories more than you consume will theoretically cause you to lose a pound of those fat stores.

Now, you can't direct that fat to disappear from your midsection; spot-training is a myth. But, visceral, inflammatory belly fat is often some of the first to go. If you've got love handles or a muffin top made up of subcutaneous fat that you're hoping to lose through running, however, you'll have to be patient. Running can help you lose weight all over, not just target the subcutaneous fat at your abdomen. You'll lose it eventually, but perhaps not as quickly as the deep visceral stuff.

Evidence for Belly Fat Loss

Vigorous-intensity exercise, such as running, has proven to induce visceral belly fat loss in overweight men and women. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2005 showed that jogging the equivalent of 20 miles per week can lead to a notable loss of visceral and some subcutaneous belly fat.

This 20 miles per week represents an amount of exercise higher than the recommended 150-minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise recommended by major health organizations for health.

Treadmill running is as good as outdoor running for burning calories.
Treadmill running is as good as outdoor running for burning calories. Photo Credit gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images

Eat Right

While exercise is important and although the participants in the 2005 study didn't make any changes to their diets to lose the fat, you can experience greater belly-fat losing benefits if you make some nutritional changes:

  • eat less sugar and refined grains; 
  • limit alcohol intake to one or two drinks per day; 
  • minimize saturated fat and eliminate trans fats (found in fast foods and some snacks.) 

These steps not only help you cut calories, they remove foods that are more likely to cause you to store calories as belly fat.

Training with weights will also help expedite belly fat loss. In addition to running and eating right, hit the barbells, dumbbells or machines two to three times per week to work all the major muscle groups. A leaner body burns fat more efficiently than one that's still flabby.

Read More: The Three Secrets to Losing Belly Fat

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