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Spot Reduction: Myth or Reality?

11.02.2011 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness

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WOW's contributing personal trainer, Becky Johnson, tackles the myths and realities of spot reduction and reveals some fun ways to stay active this fall!

You’ve seen the infomercial - a battery-powered belt to zap your ab muscles into a lean six-pack. Or remember the Thigh Master? Thank you, Suzanne Sommers! Millions of consumer dollars later, we are still asking the question - is spot reduction possible? In a word…no. Let me give you the facts.

The concept of spot reducing is based on the flawed notion that it is possible to burn off fat from a specific part of the body by selectively exercising that area. Many studies show that this is not how the body responds to exercise.

Exercises that target only cardio respiratory exercise or a particular body part with resistance training (for example, doing only “core” work) fails to strengthen the entire body and produces limited lean muscle mass.

What's Wrong With Spot Reduction?

Where did we go wrong? In the effort to tone their bodies, people neglected the most important factor: FAT.

Exercises, such as crunches and leg lifts, improve the tone and endurance of the muscles, but they don’t burn fat. When you do exercises that elevate the heart rate, such as bicycling, walking or aerobic dance like Zumba, the body will draw upon its fat stores for energy.

Alternative Solutions

Eating a low-fat diet and following an exercise program that combines aerobic activity and strength training is the key to changing the shape of your body.

In addition to burning calories through aerobic activity, strength training will increase the amount of muscle, which burns even more calories. Many people don’t like the idea of intensive exercise. They are scared off by the idea of five mile runs, barbells or aerobic classes.

Thankfully, any aerobic activity that elevates your heart rate can help you burn fat and take off those unwanted pounds. Many experts recommend doing at least three sessions of 30 minutes of aerobic activity per week.

These are fun alternatives to traditional aerobic exercises that are effective at fat burning:

- Hiking
- In-line skating
- Walking
- Zumba
- Mountain Biking
- Martial arts
- Boxing, kickboxing
- Cross-country skiing
- Downhill skiing

Many of these activities can be done with friends and family, for example hiking along one of the many trails in our area is a perfect way to be active, have fun, enjoy the fall weather and scenery and spend time with your friends! 

In addition to these activities, you should take advantage of the wide variety of fitness DVDs on the market. You can learn everything from martial arts to swing dancing!

Choose an activity because it interests you, not because it’s the newest fitness craze. Remember, the most effective exercise is one that you will stick with for the long haul.

A few things to keep in mind when starting any new activity:

- Don’t start out too hard or too fast - you may injure yourself or quit before seeing any results
- Always concentrate on enjoying yourself, rather than on what particular exercise might do for you.
- Keep exercise comfortable and only increase intensity after your body becomes used to the new activity levels.
- Always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

A Final Word

Just because exercises like crunches and leg lifts won’t budge the fat doesn’t mean that they are not beneficial. Unlike some aerobic activities, these exercises can strengthen and tone specific muscles of the body.

The best way to shape up is to incorporate strength and toning exercises. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to feeling and looking better. If you ever have any questions, please post them and I’ll be happy to answer!

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