If you work with male clients, you have likely heard some complain about their “love handles” and their desire to get rid of abdominal fat.
A new study has found that men with higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) have significantly less abdominal fat, regardless of their body mass index (BMI). The study, published in the February 2004 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, shows that CRF gained through even modest amounts of physical activity has a significant effect on waist circumference and obesity-related health risks.
Nearly 400 men ranging in age from 30 to 76 years old completed a comprehensive medical examination and lifestyle questionnaire. Researchers measured body weight, height and waist circumference, then conducted a series of digital computerized tomography (CT) scans on the abdominal region to obtain cross-sectional images of fat deposits. Visceral fat (deeper fat located around the organs) and subcutaneous abdominal fat (located between the skin and muscle) were mapped on each participant; then CRF was evaluated during maximal exercise testing on a treadmill.
At any given BMI, oxygen consumption was higher and waist circumference was lower in the men in the high-CRF group. Men in the low-CRF group had significantly more visceral and subcutaneous abdominal fat than their counterparts. This finding, according to the study authors, demonstrates that healthy CRF lessens obesity-related health risks. These data also suggest that using BMI alone to determine such risks may be misleading. The authors advise health care providers to include waist circumference and CRF measurements in routine health risk assessments.