Thousands of people go to the gym on a regular basis or engage in calorie-restricted diets with the goal of burning fat and reshaping their bodies. Unfortunately, misconceptions about weight loss and fitness gimmicks give some people the impression that they can trim fat on specific areas of the body through targeted exercise. This is not the case, and your body will shed fat evenly across your body as you exercise.
Thinnest Areas First
Losing weight is simply a matter of using more calories throughout the day than your body is taking in, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery. Once you have a caloric deficit, your body will begin converting your fat stores into energy for your muscles to use. This is done relatively evenly throughout your body, so areas of your body that have less fat are more likely to show fat-loss results first, though they may be less dramatic than areas with more fat, such as your stomach and thighs.
Some studies have shown that the different genetic profiles in men and women affect how fat is distributed throughout the body. Charlotte King of the online science publication Elements-Science.co.uk reports that men are more likely to store fat around their abdomen while pre-menopausal women typically have more fat in their buttocks, hips and thighs. Once women hit menopause and their estrogen levels decrease, fat becomes more prevalent in the abdominal area. These are sometimes called problem areas by fitness seekers and could be some of the last areas to see complete fat-loss results simply because there is more fat stored in them.
Abdominal Fat Loss
A 2003 Yale study carried out by Melinda Irwin and collegues found that intra-abdominal fat loss in postmenopausal women is significant with regular exercise. The study closely examined 173 physically inactive women between the ages of 50 and 75, and found that on average they lost an average of 5.8 percent abdominal fat after following a 12-month program with moderate walking or jogging exercise five days a week for 30 minutes per day. Although overall weight loss in the women was only modest, the study showed that they were able to significantly reduce abdominal fat, which reduces the chance for many cardiovascular diseases.
Targeted Strength Training
Weight training particular muscle groups to lose fat, such as doing situps to shape your stomach, does little to directly change your body composition. This is because the muscle is underneath and separate from your fat stores. While a large number of situps will improve the strength and size of your abdominal muscles, you will not be able to see this improvement until you burn enough fat off of your entire body to reveal them. However, the Harvard Medical School notes that studies confirm increasing your muscle size improves your body’s ability to metabolize fat faster and therefore can help you lose weight in your trouble areas sooner.
- Hospital for Special Surgery: Exercise Tips for Fat Loss
- Harvard Medical School Health Publications: Abdominal Fat and What to Do about It
- Yale Public Affairs Health and Medicine: Abdominal and Total Body Fat Loss Linked to Regular Exercise, Researcher at Yale Finds
- University of New Mexico Exercise Science; Exercise Vs. Diet in Weight Loss; Christina J. Paez and Len Kravitz, Ph.D.
- Elements-Science.co.uk; Different Fat Distribution in Men and Women Is Likely Due to Very Different Genes; Charlotte King