So You Want to Spot Reduce

By Randy Leopando, CSCS, FMS
Director of Personal Training

Besides launching millions of sit-ups, leg lifts and torso twists, the desire for a toned and taut physique has sold a long line of exercise devices. Countless inventions, such as vibrating belts and ”gut-busting” contraptions, have claimed to miraculously tighten and tone our trouble spots.  But the miracles we were expecting never materialized, and our ”spots” remained ”unreduced.”

What’s wrong with spot reduction?

Where did we go wrong? In our efforts to tone our bodies we neglected the most important factor: fat. Exercises such as crunches or leg lifts improve the tone and endurance of the muscles, but they don’t burn fat. When we do exercises that elevate the heart rate, such as bicycling, walking or aerobic dance, the body will draw upon its fat stores for energy.

Alternative solutions

An exercise program that combines aerobic activity and strength training is the key to changing the shape of your body.  In addition to burning calories through aerobic activity, strength training will increase the amount of muscle, which burns even more calories, even at rest. But many people shun the idea of intensive exercise, scared off by the idea of five-mile runs, barbells or aerobic classes.  Thankfully, any aerobic activity that elevates your heart rate can help you burn fat and take off unwanted pounds. Many experts recommend doing at least three sessions of 20 minutes of aerobic activity per week. Ideally, for long-term weight control, you should engage in at least four sessions per week, for 45 minutes each time.

For instance, these enjoyable alternatives to traditional aerobic exercise are effective fat burners:

  • Mountain Biking
  • Road cycling
  • In-line Skating
  • Walking
  • Hiking
  • Boxing
  • Cross-country Skiing
  • Swimming

Remember to choose an activity because it interests you, not because it is touted as a great workout.  A few things to keep in mind when starting any new activity:

  • Don’t start out too hard or too fast or you may injure yourself or quit before enjoying any benefit.
  • Always concentrate on enjoying yourself, rather than on what a particular exercise might do for you.
  • Keep your exercise comfortable and only increase intensity after your body becomes accustomed to new activity levels.

Always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program, especially if you’re over 40, or have cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or a family history of heart disease. To determine what your target heart rate should be, ask a NutriFormance trainer to calculate the numbers – all we need is your age and resting heart rate.

A final word about toning exercises

Just because exercises like leg lifts and crunches won’t budge the fat does not mean they are not beneficial. Unlike some aerobic activities, these exercises can strengthen and tone specific muscles of the body.  The best way to shape up is to incorporate strength and toning exercises with aerobic exercises. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to looking and feeling better.