Sleep: Too much or too little sleep also plays a role in the build-up of visceral fat. A study published in Sleep tracked adults' visceral fat over five years. People who slept five hours or less, or eight or more hours, per night gained more visceral fat than those who slept between six and seven hours per night. The study doesn't prove that sleep was the only difference, but it may have contributed to the visceral fat build-up.
Stress: Managing your stress matters. That includes chronic stress you face in your personal life, and societal stresses, such as discrimination. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that African-American and white women who reported significant experiences of discrimination had more visceral fat than women who hadn’t had such experiences.
The stress of discrimination doesn't necessarily cause weight gain. Research focused on social stress and visceral fat shows that the body can respond to all types of social stress by storing fat viscerally.
You can’t control society, but you can modify your response to it. Getting social support, meditating, and exercising as ways to handle stress.
Keeping up with your friends may also help. A study published in Biological Psychiatry showed that men and women who got support from a best friend before a stress test made less cortisol, a stress hormone. And another study, published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, showed that women who pray or meditate have healthier levels of cortisol than those who don't meditate.
But you only have so much time, right? If you could only afford the time to do one of these things, exercise probably has the most immediate benefits, because it hits both obesity and stress response.