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How to get rid of your 'muffin top'

Published Sep 27, 2007

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By Joene Hendry

Strength training twice a week may help prevent age-associated increases in overall body fat and abdominal fat among overweight and obese women who have not yet reached menopause, study findings suggest.

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"Strength training has the potential to attenuate the 'muffin top' effect that occurs with ageing (where your abdominal fat spills over your pants to create the same look as a muffin top)," Dr Kathryn H Schmitz told Reuters Health.

Over a two-year period Schmitz, of the Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, and colleagues assessed changes in body fat in 25- to- 44-year-old women who were overweight or obese.

The study participants either participated in twice-weekly strength training exercises at a local fitness centre (treatment group) or received informational brochures recommending they get a minimum of 30 minutes of vigorous physical activity, such as brisk walking, on most days of the week (standard care group).

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Among the 133 women who completed the two-year study, those in the treatment group lost nearly four percent of their body fat, on average, while those in the standard care group lost no significant body fat (0,01 percent), the researchers report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The women completing strength training also gained less abdominal fat than those who received standard physical activity recommendations. The treatment group had a seven percent increase in abdominal fat compared with a 21 percent increase in the standard care group, the researchers report.

"Body fat in the abdomen is more closely associated with health risks than any other fat stores," Schmitz said.

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These findings suggest that twice-weekly strength training is a feasible and sustainable solution for limiting overall and abdominal fat gain in overweight or obese women before they reach menopause, the researchers conclude.

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