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What is Spot Reduction?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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Spot reduction is a concept in exercise that keeps many exercise products, like machines and workout programs targeted toward a specific part of the body, very popular. The idea behind this concept is that doing a workout on one part of the body will reduce fat in that area. As encouraging as this idea might be to people who have problem areas or parts of the body where fat seems to accumulate more readily, most reputable medical professionals and exercise specialists do not believe that it is possible to reduce fat in “spots,” though the occasional study suggests otherwise, but remains unproven.

Many would argue that spot reduction works and the proof of this is in positive physical results seen when people work on a specific muscle group. It is true that performing strength training on specific muscles can help them become leaner, which can translate to a more pleasing physical appearance. When muscles are tight, they can pull in a part of the body, such as the stomach. Strong and lean abdominal muscles may minimize how much overlying fat shows, and it can appear as though fat in this area has been lost, though this may not be the case. Leaner muscles may also diminish appearance of cellulite to a degree.

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While improving appearance through spot reduction exercises that tighten muscle is by no means a bad goal, it can be unfortunate if people don’t realize the true path to fat reduction. The best way to get rid of fat is by doing cardiovascular exercise that helps to burn it. Yet, even then, the body, and not the person, decides what areas of fat to burn first. Problem areas may remain tenaciously difficult to remove. This is often particularly true for women who tend to accumulate fat on hips, thighs, and the stomach. Until significant fat reduction occurs in other areas, fat on these areas can be hard to eliminate, and exercises aimed at spot reduction begin to look very attractive.

It’s not that muscle tightening exercises that aid in spot reduction are bad to do, but they can be problematic when people use them in place of cardiovascular workouts or believe they’ll target a problem area. Strength and resistance training can be excellent when combined with aerobic exercise, but many people try spot reduction alone and conclude they simply cannot get the body they desire. They may give up on exercise when what they should really do is combine aerobics, with resistance and flexibility training. By addressing the body’s total need for fitness, problem areas may ultimately become less problematic, and this is thought healthier than trying to tame these areas in spots.

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