Participating in regular physical activity, such as modern dance, may help young adults achieve a healthier distribution of body fat, according to research being presented today at the 58th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine and 2nd World Congress on Exercise is Medicine®.

Compared to non-dancers with the same overall amount of fat, college-age dancers had less abdominal fat. Abdominal fat is linked with increased risk for metabolic and heart diseases, which are of major public health concern.

"There was no difference in weight between dancers and controls," said Karlie Friesen, lead author of this study and a doctoral candidate in exercise physiology at Oregon State University. "However, a dancer's abdominal fat, on average, was lower than that of a non-dancer, even when the two had the same volume of total fat."

Researchers recruited 31 female dance majors between the ages of 18 and 25 and compared them with 30 age-matched controls. Fat distribution was assessed by whole-body DXA scans, and caloric intake was measured by three-day food records. The data were collected as part of a larger study investigating bone density and body composition in collegiate modern dancers.

"The association between greater deposition of fat in the abdominal area and increased disease risk is well-established," said Friesen. "What we don't know is if exercise specifically lessens the amount of fat we store in that area. We found that modern dancers did exhibit a healthier pattern of body fat distribution than their peers who were sedentary to moderately active. This finding warrants further investigation into the mechanism behind changing fat distribution patterns as a result of dance training and high-intensity exercise in females."

American College of Sports Medicine