8 September 11 Spot Reducing: Myth or My Goal?

Spot reducing is a belief that you can target fat loss areas and slim down specific parts of the body. Included in this belief is that by doing hundreds of sit-ups you can reduce belly fat. Spot reduction is a favorite "promise" of many gimmicked weight loss drugs or programs, such as "Lose 7 Pounds of Belly Fat in 7 Days."

But is there anything to spot reduction? A 2006 study published in the American Journal of Physiology tested male subjects with single-leg extensions and measured blood flow and lipolysis before and after 30 minutes of continuous exercise. The results from the study showed that the fat cells surrounding the leg muscles released more fat into the blood to be used as fuel for the exercise, which suggests that when you exercise a specific muscle the body burns preferential body fat in that area.

However, there are two important points to be noted about spot reduction that may outweigh this study. First, not all fat is created equal. There is subcutaneous fat (fat stored in the thighs, hips, buttocks and abdomen), and there is visceral fat. Visceral fat is stored deeper inside the body around the heart, lungs, digestive tract and liver. And while it's the subcutaneous fat we see (and are embarrassed by) it's the visceral fat that can harm us the most because they can store toxins from the nearby organs, and therefore it's the fat we should be tracking calories and exercising to lose. Excessive visceral fat is linked to greater risks of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and cancers of the breast, colon, as well as endometrium.

A Duke University study showed that aerobic activity, performed 30 minutes a day four days a week, will reduce both subcutaneous and visceral fat, but resistance training alone only reduces subcutaneous fat. Inactivity, on the other hand, leads to the greatest gathering of visceral fat. Other factors that lead to visceral fat increases are sleep deprivation and increased stress.

The second reason spot reduction very likely remains a myth is that by exercising muscle builds beneath subcutaneous fat and compresses it, giving it the appearance of replacing the body fat. But the only way to reduce fat, as we know, is by reducing calorie intake. Remember, it takes losing 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat.

There is simply no one diet, one pill or one exercise to control fat, and, like most other things, it's a total package deal. Both diet and exercise are needed to reduce fat, and we don't have the control over our bodies to direct what fat gets burned first when we exercise.

Ryan Newhouse

Ryan Newhouse is the Marketing Director for MyNetDiary and writes for a variety of publications. He wants you to check out MyNetDiary on Instagram!

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Weight Loss/Body composition

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