Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: My friend says that spot reducing exercises can’t really target fat at particular areas of the body. Is that true?
A: Exercises that focus on particular body parts can be very effective at strengthening the specific muscles involved and may lead to a more toned appearance, but they do not reduce the amount of fat in that particular area of the body. Depending on the specific muscle an exercise works, it can help you maintain good posture, thus reducing or avoiding lower back pain; promote better balance, thus reducing risk of falls; improve performance in sports, including cycling, tennis and golf; and improve your ability to keep up with life activities like climbing stairs, gardening or carrying suitcases and groceries. What’s more, research is looking at how exercising a muscle may activate signaling in cells that controls hormones involved in blood sugar control and other important health functions
Exercise does burn calories, so as long as you don’t make up for the extra calories burned by eating or drinking more, exercise should help reduce body fat over time. Individuals differ in where body fat tends to decrease first, and where it’s harder to reduce. For many men and post-menopausal women, fat around the waist is the most difficult to trim, while for other women, especially before menopause, the hips and thighs seem to be the last areas to lose excess fat.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $100 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, http://www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.