Spot Reduction Works! True or False?
October 2011 – Fitness Concepts and Strategies!
Recently, while teaching one of my Boot Camp classes, a member asked me what exercise works best to get rid of the fat on (or reduce the size of) the outside of her legs. Unfortunately, I could not fully answer her question because I was in the middle of teaching a class. Therefore, I have dedicated this article to her and the many others who have asked this common question. Does spot reduction actually work? Let’s find out!
Defining the Term
‘Spot Reduction’ is a fitness concept derived from the belief that exercising a certain area of the body will result in the loss of body fat in the (same) area; i.e., performing abdominal crunches to get rid of excess abdominal fat.
The Human Body
The human body is comprised of various, extremely complex systems, all of which are involved in what transpires in the body. In order for the spot reduction theory to be true, the formation of fat cells in the body would have to be an isolated function. For instance, the production or elimination of body fat cells in the back of the arm would be controlled solely by the tricep muscles. This belief implies that the metabolism, hormonal system, digestive system (such as what you eat) etc., play an insignificant role in the production or elimination of body fat tissue. This could not be further from the truth! Allow me to explain.
Syndrome X (a precursor to diabetes) is a prime example of why the spot reducing system is very flawed. If someone approaches me with a goal to reduce the size of their large belly and waist, which is primarily due to syndrome X, then I could make them do all the best abdominal conditioning exercises for hours a day and NOT get any results. Why? Syndrome X occurs when a person has trouble stabilizing their blood sugar levels. This is often because they have very poor eating habits such as consuming far too much sugar. Therefore, helping this person with their diet is a greater priority than doing abdominal exercise.
The metabolism’s main role is to manage both anabolic and catabolic chemical functions in the body. In other words, it is responsible for both the construction and breakdown of various organic compounds (such as fat cells and proteins) in the body. Therefore, supporting this system will have more of an impact on fat loss than spot reduction training. Of course, there are many things you can do to support your metabolism but I would like to focus on the most obvious – exercise. How many people do effective exercise on a consistent basis? Only 5%! And no, this is not a misprint. It is funny how many people say exercise does not work for them. “Sal, I tried exercise and it didn’t work for me.” Well, that’s because exercise is not something you TRY, but something you DO and keep doing for your whole life.
What kind of exercise is best for fat loss, especially in those trouble areas? All of our bodies are unique and store fat differently. Some people store fat predominately in their upper body, others in their lower body. In some cases, people have a very lean upper and lower body but posses a large belly. A lot of woman struggle with weight gain in their hips and thighs, however, this does not mean they need to only do leg workouts. Exercising your full body (not just certain parts) regularly will help reduce body fat in all places. An exercise program that evenly targets all areas of the body is best. In my boot camp classes, I make sure that I focus on every part of the body and often use exercises that integrate the whole body such as burpees.
Burpee with Push-up
Nutrition should be a major component of any fat loss program. We have all heard the saying; “You are what you eat”, yet most people tend to forget, ignore or just simply place minimal value on nutrition. Others are confused and do not know what proper nutrition and healthy eating actually are so they give up on it entirely. This is usually because they are not following a nutrition plan which is suited to their unique body type. Remember, any real, effective plan should always be preceded by a comprehensive assessment (which determines your unique requirements).
The Metabolic Typing Diet by Dr. William Wolcott is the one I use and implement with my clients. This program teaches you:
- how to build a relationship with food
- how different foods affect your metabolism and body (which foods are best for your type "one persons’ foods is another persons’ poison")
- what ratio of carbohydrates, proteins and fats you should be consuming at each meal (unique for every person, based on a comprehensive assessment)
- And much more (builds awareness, not a ‘diet’ per say just a way of eating to improve your health and vitality which leads to the normalization of body weight)
Note: The Metabolic Typing Diet greatly supports your metabolism because you are giving your body the exact fuel it needs to function at its best; as a result, most of the foods you eat are used for energy and not stored as excess body fat!
I just recently gave a lecture on holistic stress management to some of the staff at the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health and I discussed the effects stress has on the human body. One of the effects is significant body weight fluctuations. We have all seen people either lose or gain a lot of weight while dealing with an extremely stressful event or situation in their lives. Although these are extreme conditions, a little too much stress on a daily basis will have a negative effect on your health and body fat percentage. Therefore, stress management should be another component of a fat loss program. In my book ‘One Habit At A Time’, I present 9 habits which will certainly help you reduce your stress levels and live a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Make sure you get your copy today.
The accumulation of excess body fat in any area of your body is not the result of weak or unconditioned muscles in that area. It is a holistic problem which means there are various factors involved in the fat gain. Therefore, no one thing on its own (such as spot reduction training) is going to reduce the size/fat of your trouble areas and this is why I teach and promote a holistic or multi-disciplinary approach to solve your problems. Eating right (for your type), exercising consistently, and reducing negative stressors support your body’s systems and increase your VITALITY! Remember, increase your overall vitality and you will decrease your body fat percentage – this is a scientifically proven formula! Follow it and you cannot fail; you will get the results you desire, even in those stubborn areas!
Your Holistic Health Coach,