Health & Wellness

Exercise Can Turn Fat Into Good Fat

Even a little exercise can give you healthier fat tissue


By Katrina Caruso


Exercise can turn your fat cells into fat cells that burn calories better and make your fat tissue healthier, according to US researchers. Study results published in the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that even one session of working out can help with metabolic health.

This is great news for those of us who occasionally (hello, Thanksgiving and Christmas) overdo it on sweets, desserts, and, well, food in general.

The fat tissue in our bodies exists to store fat so that it doesn’t end up in other places, such as the liver, where it can cause damage. When we work out, our muscles use fat as fuel. Over time, white fat (“bad fat”) cells turn into brown fat (“good fat”) cells that help us to burn calories. In fact, a 2017 study showed that healthy fat in overweight folks led to less inflammation and scarring.

The more recent study looked at 20 men and women, all overweight; eight of them (40%) exercised regularly, and the others did not. Fat samples were taken at the beginning of the study. The participants exercised for an hour (through moderately intensive cardio-based workouts such as walking on treadmills or riding stationary bikes), and then fat samples were taken again.
In almost all cases, fat samples from those who exercised regularly showed more of a protein that promotes the creation of more blood vessels, which leads to better blood flow. Better blood flow causes better overall health, allowing oxygen and nutrients to be delivered to different parts of the body. Additionally, the fat biopsies of the participants after exercise showed signs that their bodies were better prepared to ward off inflammation.

While the study involved a very small sample size and more research is needed, the take-aways are nevertheless important: exercise can not only help you have less fat, but can make the fat you have and the tissue where it’s stored healthier.