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Do you need cardio to burn visceral fat?

Visceral fat, also known as belly fat, is located deep inside the abdominal cavity and surrounds vital organs like the liver, pancreas, and intestines. This type of fat is considered dangerous because it increases the risk for serious health conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. Many people try different strategies to get rid of visceral fat, including diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes. One question that often comes up is whether you need cardio to effectively burn visceral fat.

What is visceral fat?

Visceral fat is metabolically active fat that sits deep inside the abdomen, surrounding organs like the liver, stomach, and intestines. It’s different from subcutaneous fat which is found just under the skin (for example, the layer of fat that can be pinched). Visceral fat can’t be pinched – it lies beneath the abdominal muscles.

Some visceral fat is normal and even healthy. But too much visceral fat is linked with a higher risk of:

– Type 2 diabetes
– Heart disease
– Stroke
– Breast, colon, and kidney cancer
– Alzheimer’s disease
– Dementia

Carrying excess visceral fat has also been associated with higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Some of the key risks linked to high visceral fat include:

– **Insulin resistance:** Visceral fat cells release cytokines, hormones that can make the body less sensitive to the effects of insulin. This can drive up blood sugar levels and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

– **Inflammation:** Visceral fat is metabolically active and can trigger low-grade chronic inflammation in the body, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, and autoimmune disease.

– **Hormone imbalance:** Too much visceral fat causes changes in hormone levels. It increases estrogen and alters cortisol levels, which can affect the body’s fat-burning abilities.

– **High blood pressure:** Visceral fat damages blood vessels and causes arteries to become hardened and narrowed, leading to an increase in blood pressure.

– **High cholesterol:** The hormones released by visceral fat cells impact how the liver metabolizes cholesterol, leading to increased LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Losing excess visceral fat should be a priority not just for weight loss but for reducing disease risk and achieving optimal health.

What causes visceral fat accumulation?

Several factors influence the accumulation of visceral fat, including:

– **Genetics:** Genes impact how your body stores and distributes fat. Some people are predisposed to carry fat in the abdominal area.

– **Age:** Visceral fat tends to increase as you get older, especially during and after menopause in women.

– **Diet:** A diet high in refined carbs, sugar, and processed foods promotes visceral fat storage. Not eating enough fiber also increases visceral fat.

– **Lack of exercise:** Leading a sedentary lifestyle is linked to greater visceral fat, while regular exercise helps reduce it.

– **Stress:** Higher and prolonged levels of the stress hormone cortisol increase visceral fat accumulation.

– **Smoking:** Smoking has been associated with a gain in visceral fat, possibly due to its effects on hormones like estrogen.

– **Sleep deprivation:** Not getting enough quality sleep alters hunger hormones and metabolism, leading to increased visceral fat over time.

– **Insulin resistance:** High blood sugar levels and insulin resistance promote the storage of fat in the abdominal region.

Making lifestyle changes like following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and managing stress can all help reduce visceral fat storage. But some factors like age, family history, and genetics cannot be controlled.

Can you spot reduce visceral fat?

Spot reduction describes losing fat from a specific area of the body through exercise. Many people want to know if you can perform targeted exercises to burn visceral fat directly underneath the belly.

Unfortunately, spot reducing fat in one area is not possible. When you lose weight, it occurs systemically across the entire body. You cannot pick where you want to burn fat from first.

When you perform abdominal exercises like crunches or planks, you are strengthening the abdominal muscles but not directly burning visceral fat. Liposuction is also not effective for removing deposits of visceral fat.

The only proven way to reduce visceral fat is to create a calorie deficit through diet, exercise, or a combination of both. As you lose weight overall, visceral fat levels will also begin to reduce. And beneficial lifestyle changes like eating healthy and staying active will accelerate visceral fat loss.

So while directly spot reducing visceral fat is not possible, overall weight loss will also bring down the amount of dangerous visceral fat in the body.

Do you need cardio to burn visceral fat?

Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise is one of the most effective methods for reducing excess visceral fat.

Activities like brisk walking, jogging, cycling, and swimming utilize large muscle groups and elevate your heart rate. This increases calorie burn so that a deficit can be created for weight and visceral fat loss.

Research shows that cardio is particularly effective at targeting belly fat:

– A study in the *Journal of Applied Physiology* found that aerobic exercise led to greater reductions in visceral fat compared to resistance training.

– According to a study in *Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise*, moderate to high-intensity aerobic exercise is more effective for reducing visceral fat than lower intensity activity. Exercise duration also matters – sessions lasting 45-60 minutes per day provide the best visceral fat burning results.

– Research in the journal *Obesity* showed aerobic exercise alone reduced visceral fat by 10% in overweight individuals. The combination of cardio and resistance training decreased visceral fat by over 15%.

Some of the reasons why cardio is excellent for decreasing visceral fat include:

– **Burns a lot of calories:** A high caloric burn makes it easier to create a deficit for fat loss. High-intensity cardio can burn over 500 calories per hour.

– **Increases metabolism:** Cardio helps improve metabolic rate and supports healthy insulin levels, which facilitates visceral fat loss.

– **Reduces inflammation:** Aerobic exercise has anti-inflammatory effects in the body and helps reverse some of the damage caused by visceral fat accumulation.

– **Improves hormones:** Cardio exercise normalizes levels of stress hormones like cortisol and increases fat-burning hormones like adiponectin.

While cardio forms an important part of any effective belly fat loss strategy, visceral fat responds best to a multifaceted approach that combines cardio, strength training, nutrition, and lifestyle changes.

Consistency is also key – you need to do cardio exercise most days of the week to keep burning visceral fat and prevent any regain.

How much cardio do you need to lose visceral fat?

Most experts recommend getting 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity cardio exercise per week to lose visceral fat. This could translate to:

– 30-60 minutes 5 days a week

– 50 minutes 3-4 days a week

– Multiple shorter 10-15 minute sessions daily

In addition to steady state cardio like brisk walking, jogging, or cycling, research shows that high intensity interval training (HIIT) is particularly effective for visceral fat loss.

HIIT involves short bursts of intense cardio exercise alternated with recovery periods. Some examples of HIIT for visceral fat loss include:

– Sprinting or running up stairs for 30 seconds followed by 1-2 minutes of light jogging

– Cycling or jumping rope hard for 45 seconds followed by 15-20 seconds of rest

– Kettlebell swing intervals of 15 seconds work and 15 seconds rest

One study found that when overweight adults did 12 weeks of HIIT 3 times per week, they lost 17% visceral fat, reduced waist circumference, and improved insulin resistance.

To maximize visceral fat burning, aim to include both steady state moderate cardio and HIIT into your routine. Remember that long duration moderate intensity (45-60 minutes) aerobic exercise seems to be optimal for decreasing visceral fat.

Best cardio exercises to burn visceral fat

All forms of cardio can help burn visceral fat. But some types of aerobic exercise may be more effective because they activate more abdominal muscles and drive up caloric burn.

The best cardio exercises to target visceral fat include:

Walking (especially brisk uphill walks)

Brisk walking remains one of the most effective forms of visceral fat burning cardio. Incline walking engages deep abdominal muscles even more.

Aim for a quick natural stride and swing arms vigorously. Go up hills or set the treadmill incline to 5% or more.


Running torches more calories than walking so it can create a greater deficit for visceral fat loss. Start with short segments of running alternated with brisk walking.

Focus on good form – keep your core engaged, shoulders relaxed and elbows bent at 90 degrees.


The rotational movement and core activation in cycling makes it great for targeting visceral fat. Up your intensity by increasing resistance.

Do intervals where you bike hard for 2-3 minutes followed by an easy pace for 1 minute to burn more visceral fat.


Rowing machines challenge both your cardio capacity and your core stability, resulting in high visceral fat burn.

Maintain good posture keeping your back straight and abs pulled in to involve the deep abdominal muscles.

Jumping rope

This high intensity exercise spikes your heart rate fast. Using a weighted rope increases core activation even more.

Aim for sets of 60-100 jumps alternated with 30-60 seconds of rest to torch visceral fat.

Kettlebell swings

Performing sets of kettlebell swings keeps your heart rate up while working your abdominals and obliques isometrically. Use lighter weights for 15-30 reps.

Keep good form – hinge at the hips and swing the bell between your legs without rounding your back.


Doing different strokes in swimming engages your core and challenges your cardio capacity in new ways for visceral fat loss.

Alternate lengths of front crawl, backstroke, and butterfly to get a vigorous interval training effect.

Stair climbing

Quickly walking or jogging up stairs is an intense way to boost calorie burn and strengthen the abdominals. Use short bursts of stair climbing as HIIT.

Pump your arms vigorously as you climb and keep your core muscles engaged.

How to speed up visceral fat loss

Alongside cardio exercise, several other strategies can help accelerate visceral fat loss:

– **Follow a low sugar diet:** Reduce added sugar, sweetened drinks, and refined carbs to lower insulin resistance. Fill up on high fiber foods which help reduce visceral fat.

– **Increase protein intake:** Eat 0.7-1 gram protein per pound of body weight to preserve muscle, boost metabolism, and burn more visceral fat.

– **Lift weights:** Build muscle with resistance training to further raise your metabolic rate and burn more calories around the clock.

– **Manage stress:** Chronic stress increases cortisol which drives visceral fat gain. Practice relaxation techniques and get good sleep.

– **Increase NEAT:** Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) refers to calories burned through daily movement outside of workouts. Find ways to reduce sitting time and stay active.

– **Add HIIT workouts:** The intensity of HIIT intervals helps decrease visceral fat faster than lower intensity steady state cardio.

– ** Drink green tea:** Compounds in green tea called catechins may help boost visceral fat loss, especially when combined with exercise.

– **Try intermittent fasting:** Fasting shifts fat metabolism to promote greater visceral fat utilization for energy. Stick to 14-16 hour fasts 1-3 days a week.

Being patient and consistent with your cardio workouts and lifestyle changes is key for long-term visceral fat loss. Use a tape measure or tracking app to monitor your waist circumference so you can gauge visceral fat reduction.


Visceral fat wrapped around the abdominal organs is metabolically active and promotes inflammation and insulin resistance. This makes carrying excess visceral fat hazardous for long-term health.

Cardiovascular exercise is particularly effective for decreasing visceral fat stores compared to other types of workouts. Aerobic activity helps burn calories and reduces the dysfunctional changes associated with high visceral fat.

Aim for 150-300 minutes per week of moderate intensity cardio like brisk walking, cycling, or swimming. HIIT can expedite visceral fat loss as well. Combining cardio with a healthy diet, strength training, and other lifestyle factors leads to optimal and lasting visceral fat reduction.

Consistency is key – be sure to get in at least 30-60 minutes of effective visceral fat burning cardio activity most days of the week for the best results. Monitoring your waist circumference and staying motivated through visceral fat loss plateaus can help you reach and maintain your health goals.