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November 29, 2019

Is spot reduction a myth or a feasible way to lose weight?

Fitness Weight Loss
Spot reduction: Fact or Myth? Public Doman/

Spot reduction is not a feasible weight-loss strategy, health experts say.

We all have those stubborn parts of our body, whether the stomach, thighs or arms, where we wish we could lose some weight. But is spot reduction – targeted weight loss in a specific area – possible?

While certain workout techniques and fitness experts tout spot reduction as fact, the scientific evidence just isn't there to support it.

"The scientific consensus among fitness experts and researchers is that spot reduction is a myth," Tony Carvajal, a certified L-2 Crossfit Trainer with RSP Nutrition told LIVESTRONG.COM

So how does weight loss really work? Experts say that it comes down to burning more calories than you are consuming.

"If you cut just 200 calories a day from your diet and burned just 300 extra calories a day by exercising, you'd lose about one pound per week," Carvajal said.

Such weight loss occurs throughout your body. You can't target it to just one area. 

The number of fat cells, known as adipocytes, in our body remains the same throughout our lifetime except for when we experience hormonal changes like during puberty or pregnancy, Dr. Luiza Petre, a weight loss specialist and board-certified cardiologist told LIVESTRONG.COM. However, the size of these fat cells will change.

The reason it may seem like you lost more weight in one area of your body than another could be due to having fewer fat cells in that area, Petre said. All fat cells are affected in the same way when you gain or lose weight. 

"Compare them with bubbles that can go bigger or smaller as they need to store more or less fat," Petre said.

Exercise targeting certain areas, such as the stomach or thighs, can strengthen and tighten muscles, but they most likely will not reduce fat in that area, experts say. 

The best way to lose weight is to adopt a full body workout regimen and nutrition plan. This includes a combination of aerobic exercises such as walking, jogging, swimming or cycling, and anaerobic exercises using free weights or machines for building muscle and toning.

Physical activity guidelines from the American Heart Association say that you should be getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week or 75 minutes a week of more intense aerobic exercise to maintain good health. You should also engage in anaerobic exercise at least 2 days a week.

The Cleveland Clinic advises that "before you start an exercise program or routine, a thorough medical history and evaluation are recommended so you and your doctor can identify limitations on certain exercise movements."

Make sure you also get instructions on how to perform these exercises properly and safely. If you have certain heart or orthopedic conditions, it may not be safe to do anaerobic exercises so always talk to your doctor first.

Nutrition is also important. According to Harvard Health, to lose 1 or 2 pounds a week, you should consume 500 to 1,000 calories less than your total weight-maintenance calories – the number of calories you need to maintain your current weight. 

For women, your calorie intake should never drop below 1,200 calories a day. For men that figure is 1,500 a day. The only exception is if your weight-loss is being supervised by your doctor.

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