The rumor: You can spot-reduce to lose body fat
You may often hear that by targeting specific parts of your body through exercise, you can focus where your body burns fat. You probably have even seen a person in a TV commercial for an abs exercise machine that led to someone to lose 60 pounds around his/her midsection by using it three minutes a day. And popular wisdom says there's no problem getting washboard abs if you do enough crunches.
But are the rumors true?
The verdict: You can't control where you lose fat
Unfortunately where you lose fat first has more to do with genetics than anything else. The gimmicks for sale that say they will give you are both true and false. Yes you can get “six-pack” abs, but only will they show if you lose body fat.
"Asking your body to lose fat in one area is like trying to remove a cup of water from one corner of a filled bathtub," says personal trainer Lecia Whitlock, an instructor at The National Personal Training Institute. "The overall water level will go down, but there won't be a divot in one corner of the tub."
A 2013 study measured the effects of exercise on the fat mass of a targeted body area. Subjects did a ludicrous number of leg presses using their non-dominant leg over the course of 12 weeks. Despite performing between 960 and 1,200 reps (!) three times a week against very light resistance, participants saw no significant change in fat mass in the exercising leg. There was a decrease in fat mass in the upper body, but nada in the leg that did all of the work.
So, where does this leave you if you want to lean out through the middle? If you're serious about losing your gut and are following a sound exercise and diet program, there are some things you can do to decrease the appearance of your waistline while your body leans itself out.
"Strength training the muscles of the upper body -- especially the shoulders and back -- will improve your posture and change your body's proportions," says Whitlock. "This will make your waistline appear smaller." Your improved posture will get you standing taller and appearing thinner, and the added muscle you'll be building will help increase your overall metabolism and speed up the rate at which your body is burning calories and shedding body fat.
Ultimately, the key to a more ripped midsection isn't doing a zillion crunches. It's working the entire body and eating correctly.
Strength training will increase the calories you burn 24/7. High-intensity cardio will let you burn big chunks of calories in a small amount of time. Slow paced cardio, i.e., a jog at a pace where you have a high heart rate but still able to talk, will but more fat as a energy source versus other energy sources like oxygen. And a healthy diet will ensure that you're taking in the proper number of quality calories.
You might not lose three pants sizes in a week like many ads portray, but you will eventually reach your goal. "And as a bonus," says Whitlock, "the rest of your body will look and feel better as well."