Spot reduction – fact or fiction?

By David Hawkins, Exercise Specialist and Physiotherapist

Technically known as ‘Spot Reduction’, targeted fat loss from specific areas of the body forms the basis of an almost limitless library of articles, blogs and exercise routines.  And it’s understandable since almost all of us would say that there is at least one part of our body from where fat loss seems to be slowest and most difficult; an area of our body that we wish we could target our fat loss from most.  But despite our deepest desires, the fancy name and virtual library devoted to spot reduction, is it actually possible?  Can we tailor our exercise routines to target those troublesome areas?

To answer this question, it is important to understand how fat loss occurs.  In order to torch that troublesome tissue, we must burn more calories than we eat; we must create a calorie deficit, so our bodies are forced to use our fat stores for energy.  When this occurs, fat it is harvested from the entire body, rather than those areas of the body where the muscles are working hardest.  Therefore, unfortunately, spot reduction is a myth; it doesn’t matter if you do a thousand sit-ups a day or can hold a plank for 10 minutes, you will not be able to influence where your fat loss specifically occurs.

But don’t be disheartened.  Even though spot reduction is not possible, overall weight loss certainly is, and your exercise routine can be personally optimised to help you achieve this.  Also, now you know that when you see a workout that claims it will “torch the fat from your tummy,” or “shed those unwanted kilos from your thighs,” you will not have unrealistic expectations of the results.  Better yet, it might save you from doing a thousand crunches a day!

Keep up the great work!