Perhaps, like many people, you tend to overdose on gujiyas and laddoos during the holidays. Or maybe the final exams and year closing and late-night runs to ice-cream shops are catching up with you. If nothing else ,then certainly the famous middle age spread that has become part of life.
Either way, you may have been tempted at one time or another to use specialized exercise machines supposedly designed to deliver six-pack abs or buns of steel. But can selectively targeting certain body parts truly result in localized fat loss? Infomercials and even some fitness magazines would certainly like you to believe so. Scientific studies, however, suggest otherwise.
Targeted fat loss, also known as “spot reduction,” is a popular idea partly because it appeals to our intuition. After all, it seems perfectly reasonable to assume that the fat you burn while exercising comes from the area around the muscles you are using.
A group of Yale students conducted an interesting study on Tennis players. These players constitute a population whose right and left arms have been consistently subjected to very different amounts of exercise over several years. Consequently, if spot reduction were a valid concept, one would expect the players’ dominant arms to have thinner layers of subcutaneous fat compared to their non-dominant arms. When the researchers measured the thickness of subcutaneous fat at specific points along the players’ arms, however, they found no statistically significant difference between right and left arms.
The reason is that many of the exercises commonly associated with spot reduction do not actually burn many calories – and if you are not burning enough calories, you are not going to lose much fat from anywhere in your body. (Keep in mind that one pound of fat is equivalent to 3500 calories.) In fact, you are more likely to shed your love handles by taking up a running program than by doing crunches and sit-ups every day, simply because cardiovascular exercise is a much more efficient calorie-burner.
Weight training can also help to achieve optimal results. It is important to maintain your muscle mass because you will not achieve a toned look if you lose lean tissue along with fat. Finally, good nutrition is essential. After all, even if you burn 500 calories by exercising, you will not end up losing any fat if you also consume 500 more calories than usual.
In fact what most gym trainers do is that they misinform us to believe that it is possible. A 100 push ups will never get you a toned chest or back. It will just give you pain and a nasty burn which is further mistaken to be the ‘good effect’ of the grueling exercise, or the exercise having effect. The burn is simply the lactic acid in your muscles being used up and causing pain. Entirely avoidable.
Fad exercises or diets never work. It’s simply impossible for a person to influence where their body draws the fat that is metabolized into energy. Each person’s body has a natural pattern of where fat is added or dropped — some people will lose fat from their stomachs first, while others get slimmer hips.
It would be great if spot reduction were possible. In such a world, you would be able to focus on improving the areas of your body that cause you the most distress. Looking good would be much easier. Sadly, that’s not the case. This is life.
Now get up and run around the block!