Spot reducing fat: Is it possible?

As part of my July-August series, let me challenge a myth that always sees the light of day at this time of the year: spot reduction. This is something that many people believe is true; it is actually one big lie. It is fueled by gimmicky advertising from those who want to sell some product or promote themselves. What they do is make claims that if persons exercise a certain area of their body for a period of time then that specific area will lose more fat. However, science has no evidence to suggest that this is actually true.

The companies selling products that claim to improve specific areas of the body certainly want you to believe in spot reduction. Having consumers believe in spot reduction means that their products will be considered highly among other workout equipment. They still run with the notion that the thinking public has not caught on.

On the other hand though we have localized exercise, which means exercising a specific body area, such as the arms or thighs. The so-called fitness gurus who tell you that doing a localized exercise will help you lose the fat in that area are feeding you complete non-truths. Having said that, what then do localized exercises do? These exercises simply work the muscles that are performing the action in that area.

Having nurtured them for months, sometimes years, many persons ask around this time of the year: “What can I do to lose my love handles?”

A better question is — how do we lose fat? As I have mentioned in previous columns, in order to burn off fat, one needs to burn calories. However, often a great contributor to belly fat is genetics (thanks, or no thanks, Mommy and Daddy). We already know that a mix of cardiovascular exercises, strength training and a calorie deficit are by far the most helpful when it comes to burning calories and losing body fat, definitely much more than the common myth of doing crunches consecutively to get rid of belly fat.

Fat is stored all around the body. When one exercises in a certain way, such as swimming or doing pushups, fat that is stored as triglycerides is broken down into fatty acids and glycerol. This then enters the blood stream.

When you decide to have a leg day, that doesn’t mean the fat you will burn will be leg fat. Fat burns from all over the body. Therefore, in order to burn as much as possible one should burn off as many calories as possible.

It is true that some people seem to burn off fat in certain areas easier than others. One thing that must be kept in mind is that everyone is different. It may be easier for you to lose fat in your thighs, while your sibling may easily lose tummy fat. This is all because we, as human beings, already have a system in which our body stores fat and a pattern as to how it loses the fat.

So in essence, by burning a lot of calories our body will start pulling fat from its storage and burning it as a fuel system for the body; we cannot control where it comes from. Spot reduction, therefore, is a myth that has been busted.

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