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Can I Just Lose Fat From My Hips, Legs, and Stomach?

by: Eduardo G. Perez

December 9, 2005 The most common and everlasting question I receive as a personal fitness trainer continues to be based on the myth of spot reduction. The questions tend to be, "Eduardo, show me an exercise to lose my love handles, "Eduardo, I just want to reduce the size of my thighs," "Eduardo, I know you said that it's not scientifically possible, but can you just give me a couple of exercises to tone my arms?" Even though media has done a great job of debunking this myth it still persists. This is such a powerful notion that marketers have taken full advantage of it and invest a minimum of thirty-thousand dollars just to produce an infomercial on stomach and thigh saunas, abdominal machines, and leg toners. It's a pretty large sum that provides four to ten times the return on their initial investment. I must have a sense of moral obligation when I am not joining that extreme money making bandwagon. As a matter of fact, in this brief article on the myth of losing fat from a specific area, I plan on joining the few in the fitness industry that want to inform the consumers on the truth.

As the trainer for and coach for I consistently answer this question with a NO. The misconception of burning fat from a specific area of the body has been proven by research that it is false. Of course, if I am going to tell you that science has proved it false, I made sure to do my homework and dig up three studies that illustrate how flawed spot reduction is as a runner up to an urban myth.

The first study I want to illustrate will answer the questions of "I just want to lose fat from my stomach, can I just do crunches?" In 1984, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport reported that thirteen males did a total of 5000 sit-ups in 27 days. Biopsies of the subject's fat cells were used to measure the change in fat cell diameter. The results showed that the subjects lost fat equally from the stomach, glutes, and upper back even though they only worked their abs.

"Eduardo, just give me leg exercises since all I want to do is lose fat from my legs and hips?" In a six-month long study of women who mainly did leg exercises for approximately nine hours per week lost an average of 5.7 pounds of fat. The Journal of Applied Physiology, the periodical that published this study, reported that the distribution of fat loss was 2.9 pounds from the trunk, 2.8 pounds from the arms, and 0 from their thighs. Their weekly nine hours of leg work resulted in zero fat loss from their thighs!

"Ok, so you say..." This is what I begin to hear after I try to explain spot reduction is a myth. It continues as, "that spot reduction doesn't work, but can you just give me some arm exercises to reduce the fat from my arms?" This last illustration is from a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 1971, where world-class tennis players were tested to see if spot reduction could help in reducing the fat from the arms. The idea behind this study was that if spot reduction worked, the players would have one arm that's leaner than the other. Obviously, tennis players use their dominant arms forcefully everyday while doing relatively little with their non-dominant arms. Though the researchers did find the dominant arm to be bigger due to more muscle tone, there was no difference at all between arms in fat thickness. This study showed that working a certain muscle does not necessarily affect the fat deposits that may be lying above that muscle.

What are your weight loss options?

Your options are healthy eating and moderate to intense exercise. Going back to science, research has proven that exercise and healthy eating habits are the most important part of a weight loss and weight management program. Exercise helps to lose or control weight by using any extra calories that would have otherwise been stored a fat. For example, if you were to eat more calories than you actually use through physical activity, the extra calories would be stored as fat and you would gain weight. On the other hand, if you were to eat fewer calories than you actually use, your body would use stored calories resulting in weight loss. Of course, if your calories in are equal to the calories you use, your weight stays the same.

How many calories do I need to burn in order to lose one pound of fat?

In order to lose approximately one pound of fat you would have to expend about 3,500 calories in a week. One way to do this is to eat fewer calories, and burn more through exercise. If you burn about 300 calories a day and eat 200 less calories per day, you will have a 500 calorie deficit. In one week that would be 3,500 calories. My recommendation is that you keep a food journal, like the one found in the 6 Week Exercise Journal in order to start recognizing your calorie intake.

How do I set up my exercise routine to lose fat?

In order to lose fat, you would have to spend a minimum of one-hundred and fifty minutes exercising per week. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least thirty minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise at least five times per week. An example of a fitness program could be:

-Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday thirty minute power walk.
-Every Tuesday and Thursday you do a thirty minute full-body weight training program followed by a fifteen to twenty minute moderate to high intensity aerobic exercise such as power walking.

If you would like more information on customized exercise and meal programs go to and I will be glad to assist you in achieving your goals. Remember, my mission as a personal trainer and fitness coach is to see you succeed. I hope that I have been able to debunk or at least make a dent in the spot reduction myth and put you on the road to an over all fat-free and healthy body in 2006. Please visit my site for more information on achieving your fitness goals at

Eduardo G. Perez is a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise. He has over 16 years of experience in assisting individuals achieve their fitness and weight loss goals. In addition he is owner of and an online fitness resource for achieving fitness goals and offering tools to help you get started and stay on track throughout the year.

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