Sven Wombwell
Article by: Sven Wombwell
Estimated 8 minutes read

When looking to lose weight and get in shape, a combination of resistance weight training and cardio is key. When it comes to cardio, running is one of the easiest exercises to get started. It not only helps to alleviate stress, but it also improves cardiovascular and mental health. But does running burn belly fat?

An increase in waist size due to additional belly fat can make you feel self-conscious and uncomfortable, and it can also be a significant health concern. Being overweight can affect other areas of life, including sexual health. 

Belly fat is made up of two types. Subcutaneous fat sits under the skin, and visceral fat surrounds your organs. While we can see subcutaneous fat, we can't see visceral fat. So, even if your weight and BMI are in a healthy range, it could be a dangerous health issue.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, (1)  visceral fat is the most dangerous and can provide various serious health problems. The extra weight around the organs can be responsible for metabolic diseases that include:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Fatty liver disease

According to a study (2) of 24,508 subjects of men and women ages 45 -79, the bigger the waist, the more visceral fat was present. In addition, visceral fat was found to be a strong indicator of the risk of cardiovascular disease.

According to another study, (3) other conditions associated with excess fat include:

  • Asthma ⁴ 
  • Dementia
  • Cancer 
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Lung disease

Most people don't think much of the excess fat around their middle, especially if it develops as they age. But it's essential to change that mindset and start thinking about becoming the healthiest version of yourself.

Is Belly Fat Putting Your Health at Risk?

You won't need any special tests or see your doctor to determine if you need to lose belly fat. All it takes is a tape measure, a mirror and the courage to be honest with yourself. For women, if your waist measures 35 inches or more, you could be in danger. A waist size of 40 inches or more is a concern for men.

If your pants feel tight around the waist and you notice your belly getting larger, despite your weight and BMI staying within a healthy range, it may be time to make some changes to protect your health.

Visceral Fat and Low Testosterone

Research has shown a close relationship between visceral fat and testosterone levels. In men, excess visceral fat can lead to lower testosterone levels. At the same time, low testosterone levels can contribute to the accumulation of visceral fat. This relationship is bidirectional, meaning that changes in one can lead to changes in the other. The issue all stems from an enzyme called aromatase.

Aromatase is an enzyme that converts testosterone to estradiol, a form of estrogen. Aromatase is present in various tissues throughout the body, including visceral fat. When visceral fat accumulates in excess, it can increase aromatase activity. When this happens, it can lead to increased conversion of testosterone to estradiol. This can result in lower levels of testosterone in the body.

Low testosterone can lead to health problems, including reduced muscle mass and bone density, increased body fat, and decreased libido. Low testosterone can increase the risk of developing conditions like type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.

There are several factors that can contribute to both low T and excess visceral fat. These include a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, and certain medical conditions. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a balanced diet, promotes healthy levels of testosterone and reduces visceral fat.

The Role of Diet and Fitness in Burning Belly Fat

Starting anything new can seem overwhelming, especially when it affects your health. You'll want to focus on two changes to lose belly fat and overall weight: your diet and fitness routine.

According to Harvard Health (4), a good fitness plan should include a combination of cardio and resistance strength training to build muscle. And since muscle burns fat even after your workout, you don't want to skip it. But to target fat, cardio is also vital. 

Some cardio exercises to burn belly fat include:

  • Biking
  • Swimming
  • Rowing
  • Aerobic fitness classes
  • Walking at a quick pace
  • Running

An active lifestyle and a diet of whole foods, including lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats such as nuts and seeds and water, all help to maintain a healthy weight. But it's also important to eliminate processed foods and sugar. These foods make you pile on the pounds and cause various health problems.

How Does Running Burn Belly Fat?

Experts say that to burn visceral fat, it's important to include 30 minutes of aerobic exercise into your daily routine, which may include running. But according to a study (5), to burn more fat, cardio should be high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) as it's more effective at burning fat than other types of cardio exercise.

But even if you'd prefer to run at a steady pace, running for fat loss is a great option. Besides the fact that you don't need more than a good pair of running shoes, it can be done anywhere and is free.

According to the American Council on Exercise, (6) a 180-pound runner who runs for 30 minutes at a steady pace can burn more than 500 calories. But longer runs aren't always better for burning stubborn belly fat. Implementing various training methods can be even more beneficial.

Some running options to add to your training include:

  • Trail running

Due to the uneven terrain, trail running works the whole body differently than on a track. So, you'll likely work your glutes, calves and quads, along with getting some great cardio.

  • Cross training

Using running as your primary exercise to cross-train, you'll also add other forms of cardio. These could include elliptical workouts, swimming, cycling, and rowing to mix up workouts and prevent injury.

  • Interval running

High-intensity workouts produce the best fat loss. According to studies, [7] running at different speeds can increase oxygen flow to your muscles. This increased blood flow can boost metabolism and help burn calories.

While running can torch calories and burn belly fat, adding additional high-intensity moves to your routine can also help to improve performance and keep boredom at bay. Some activities to incorporate include:

  • Burpees
  • Squats
  • Jumping jacks
  • Pushups
  • Kicks

Generally, high-intensity routines work in 30-second intervals. You'd perform one exercise for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds and then move on to the next exercise and work in sets of 3. 

Why You Need Resistance Weight Training to Burn Fat

While cardio is beneficial in burning belly fat, A study (8) found that you can benefit even more by including resistance weight training in your fitness routine. 

When we reach middle to old age, many people lose muscle mass and strength and have lower energy levels; this commonly leads to a condition called sarcopenia. Those with the condition can experience frailty and difficulty walking, standing and climbing stairs. The chances of developing sarcopenia may increase with a poor diet and the absence of exercise, including resistance weight training and Low T.

According to Dennis Villareal, MD, a professor at Houstin's Baylor College of Medicine, “resistance training is the most important component because it builds muscle and reduces the loss of muscle mass. As the relationship between body mass and muscle becomes more positive, participants lose more fat than they lose muscle, so the relative sarcopenia is improved significantly. Combining the two types of exercise had additive effects so they were better together than separate.”

The benefit of weight resistance training for burning belly fat is that muscle helps to increase metabolic rate, so even after you finish your workout, your body continues to burn more calories. Muscle also changes body composition, giving you a more defined appearance, so even if your weight hasn't changed, you'll look toned, and your clothes will fit better.

TRT, Fat Reduction and Lean Muscle

In various studies, testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) has been found to reduce visceral fat. 

One study [8] published in the European Journal of Endocrinology in 2015 found that TRT reduced visceral fat in middle-aged and older men with low testosterone levels. Another study [9] published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2012 found that TRT reduced visceral fat in men with type 2 diabetes.

One final study [10] showed TRT combined with exercise to be an effective treatment for obesity in men with low T, where they state:

“On the basis of the findings presented in this study, we suggest that T therapy offers a safe and effective treatment strategy for obesity in men with TD, and this novel approach provides a unique opportunity to manage obese hypogonadal men.”

Combined with exercise, TRT can turbo-charge weight loss, build lean muscle and reduce symptoms of metabolic syndrome, including type 2 diabetes.


So, does running burn belly fat or not? Torching belly fat isn't easy, but it can be done with the right nutrition plan and a good workout strategy that includes running to burn belly fat, interval training and resistance weight lifting. It's important to understand that losing stubborn belly fat takes time and patience. But if you're doing all the right things and still not losing, it could be time to consider other health issues that could be interfering with fat loss. After all, good health is the ultimate goal.

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