Busting the Myth: Spot Reduction

“I want to get rid of this.  What is the best exercise for that? Or, can you give me one exercise that I can do?”  Most of the time, people are talking about their midsection or their stomach’s as they say, but my answer is always the same no matter what body part they are talking about…  there is no such thing as spot reduction.  Spot reduction is the ability to burn fat selectively off of trouble spots, and unfortunately, area-specific fat loss is a myth. 

Each person has a natural pattern of where fat is added or dropped.  Some people will lose fat from their stomach’s first while others might get slimmer hips or notice it in their faces.  My experience seems to be that the first place you put it on is usually the last place you take it off… but there’s no science behind that.   

What we do know for a fact is that you can’t out exercise a bad diet, so if you want to lose fat, you have to alter your diet.  The good news though is that exercise burns off calories so the more muscles you work (like full-body exercises), the more calories you burn.   If you want more definition in a certain area, you can train those areas (spot toning), but you still have to decrease the body fat or you may never see the results of your work. 

Avoid One of the Biggest Mistakes in Exercise

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when exercising is doing the same routine session after session, week after week and even year after year.  In doing this, you set yourself up for overuse injuries and limit progress because of adaptation.

From an injury standpoint, working the same muscles in the same way in every workout can lead to overuse.  Varying your workouts or cross-training will allow you to work out more frequently and for longer durations without excessively overloading particularly vulnerable areas of your body.  

Varying your exercise routine or cross training has a number of other benefits besides minimizing your risk of injury.  It helps you prevent plateaus and muscle imbalances, and it keeps you motivated. 

For the best results from your workout, change things up every 4-6 weeks.  Include all of the major components of fitness: weight training, cardiovascular work, and flexibility training.  If your workouts are cardiovascular-based, vary the type of cardio you do.  For example, if running is your primary workout, add the bike or swimming a couple of times per week to keep your workouts fresh, to minimize impact, and to get a more total-body workout.  This will go a long way in avoiding injuries and will keep you from getting bored with your workouts.

For a good cardio workout, mix it up:

:  This is a combination stepper/ elliptical.  It can be a challenging workout that takes a little getting used to; however, the motion is more natural than the up and down motion of a stepper.  Provides a non-impact work but allows you to be weight bearing. 

Recumbent Bike:  Provides a non-impact workout.  Good for those who have back issues as it provides good back support with a high-back seat that can be reclined to decrease the pressure on the spine.  Users will feel this exercise more on the backside (the hamstrings) vs. the quads as they would on an upright bike.

Treadmill:  Still one of the most popular pieces for a good cardio workout.  This can either be a low impact workout or a high impact workout depending on your settings.  You can walk (lower impact) or run (higher impact) on this piece, and the treadmill will pace (by adjusting the speed) your workouts unlike when you run outdoors.  You can vary the intensity by adjusting either the speed or the incline (or both).   It is good for those who are trying to maintain or improve bone density as it is a weight bearing exercise.

Upright Bike:  The upright bike is more like a traditional road bike except you don’t have to worry about falling off or getting hit by a car.  The work is mostly felt in the quads (front of the thigh) vs. the hamstring (the back of the thigh) as you would with a recumbent bike.  The upright bike is also good for those who are trying to improve knee ROM after surgery but may be problematic for those with back issues.

Elliptical:  This provides a weight-bearing, non-impact workout for the user.  This piece does not incline as research shows this puts a lot of stress on the ankle, you can adjust the resistance to make the exercise more intense. 

*Before starting any workout program, you should always consult your physician to see what’s right for you.  If you experience any pain, dizziness, or become short of breath, you should stop the exercise.