“Can you please show me what exercises I can do to get rid of this fat on my arms”? This is a very common question we get asked at the clinic.

Many people want to target fat loss to specific areas of their body, whether it be arms, thighs, butt or belly. It seems there’s always at least one specific area we want to change on our bodies. However, is this actually possible? Can we target weight loss to just our arms or tummy?

Spot Reduction

Targeted Fat loss, or “Spot Reduction” is a term you have probably heard before. It is a type of exercise designed to target fat loss to a particular area of the body. For example, sit ups or crunches for belly fat. Although this approach to exercise is quite popular and even promoted, does it work? The short answer is no not really! This form of exercise is particularly appealing to those who have a hard time losing weight or have been unsuccessful in the past, and a quick fix is the first thing we’ll turn to given the opportunity. Working the muscles in the problem area might seem like the logical thing to do, however, fat loss does not necessarily work this way and there is scientific evidence to back this.

Firstly, how does fat loss work?

Fat is a form of stored energy in your body, and before it can be burned for energy, it needs to be broken down into a smaller form – From triglycerides (stored fat) to free fatty acids and glycerol, which then enter the bloodstream. During exercise, the free fatty acids and glycerol can be used as fuel however, they can come from anywhere in the body, not necessarily the area being exercised. Most studies have found that although some fat may be lost from around the working muscle, fat loss is not just specific to that area and is a result of total fat loss from around the body.

Fat Loss vs Toning

Despite the ineffectiveness of spot reduction, targeted exercises are not a waste of time and still have beneficial results. While you can’t really choose where you lose fat, you can choose where you want to look more toned. Muscles are strengthened and defined by toning exercises such as sit ups and triceps exercises, however they don’t burn many calories. Doing sit ups or a bunch of ab exercise will make your abs stronger, but you won’t necessarily gain a “6 pack” unless you lose overall body weight.

So, how do you do it?

So, what is the best approach to losing that arm fat or that bit extra around the butt? It is to lose body weight overall. This works best through a combination of cardio, resistance training and a healthy diet. Reducing your calorie intake through a healthy diet and increasing your exercises levels to give your metabolism that extra boost is best to achieve a calorie deficit necessary to lose weight.

If you need help finding the best approach to diet and exercise for weight loss, let your LifeShape Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist know and we will tailor your diet and exercise to suit your requirements!

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