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The Truth about Spot Reduction

At any point, we can pick up the latest fitness magazine or see a television ad for the newest "abdominal reducer" exercise. These gimmicks are feeding on society's obsession with a "six pack" and everyone is searching for the answer to lose those love handles.

How many times have you heard these statements? "I do a hundred abdominal crunches a night". "I have this one trouble area that I need to work." "I just want to do exercises to lose my hips." These are common requests of many fitness clients. But the truth is performing an exercise that moves a portion of the body does not necessarily mean you are burning the fat there. Hundreds of abdominal crunches or leg lifts a night will not rid the fat in those specific areas.

Here are the top five things about spot reduction that they do not mention in fitness and health magazines.

1. Muscle and fat are two distinct tissues. They have different properties and characteristics. It is not physiologically possible for one to be transformed into another. When performing these exercises, it is our skeletal muscle that is working, not the fat that may surround it.

2. When we perform any activity, we need energy for that movement. We get this energy from the foods that we consume. When we need energy for exercise, we do not choose which fuel will be used (determined by intensity). In addition, the energy used comes from the entire body not just the skeletal muscle that is moving. So the energy to perform those crunches may not necessarily be coming from your abdominal region!

3. Another key point to these "spot reduction" exercises is that they are anaerobic exercises. What does this mean? We have two energy systems that help us perform all activities. We have our aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. When performing these exercises effectively, the anaerobic system is the system of choice. Biochemically, carbohydrates are the primary fuel choice and fats cannot be used as an energy source.

4. IF you still are not convinced, here's another point. Fat is stored as adipose tissue. If we were to use it as a fuel source, it needs to be broken down by the liver into fatty acids and then circulated into the bloodstream to be used as a fuel. The body is going to release fat stored from the entire body not from those specific areas we wish.

5. Deposition of fat is genetically predetermined. We do not control where we will carry most of our weight. This is also something that cannot be altered by performing specific movements.

In order to lose fat, you need to burn more calories than you use. The key is to engage in aerobic and anaerobic exercise along with proper nutritional practices. This will decrease the fat stores throughout the entire body and preserve your muscle mass. Steer clear of the latest fitness craze and "ab buster" exercise. There is no quick gimmick or exercises that will spot reduce a "trouble" area. But it is possible with hard work.

Teri Mosey is a Exercise Physiologist currently working at Peak Performance Fitness ( She is also an Instructor for Health and Fitness certifications, Certified Personal Trainer (NASM), Health and Fitness Instructor (ACSM) and Resistance Training Soecialist (RTS)


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