Spot Training: The Monster, the Myth, the Legend

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Over the last year, you may have done thousands of sit-ups and still not been able to whittle your middle. If that’s the case, you probably feel frustrated, distraught and defeated.

The bad news: Spot training doesn’t work to help you achieve your overall long-term goals. The best way to lose fat from one particular area is to lose fat overall, then concentrate on toning individual parts of your body. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t (or at least you shouldn’t) take diet pills without also incorporating other healthy lifestyle changes—like healthier food habits and adding exercise—to your routine. If it’s losing weight you’re after, you have to think in terms of not only weight loss, but also weight maintenance.

The good news: Your sit-ups weren’t in vain … and there are three simple steps that do work.

  1. Eating a balanced diet can help regulate how much fat your body stores and eliminates. As a general rule, eliminating 250 calories from your diet each day will yield a recommended weight loss of one pound every two weeks — but don’t worry, you may not have to eat less, you just may have to start eating better.
    • Make sure the calories you’re eating come primarily from nutrient-dense foods that offer more nutrition for relatively few calories, such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds.
    • If you eat dairy products, choose low-fat or nonfat options, and if you eat poultry, beef or other meat, try to choose leaner cuts.
    • A healthy eating plan will prevent you from storing fat in unwanted places and will help build muscle mass at the same time.
  2. Cardio Exercise is an effective way to burn calories from your daily diet, if you burn 250 calories each day, you will be on the road to a healthy weight loss. If you combine the tactics, you could lose as much as one pound a week.
  3. Strength Training. Should you eliminate the sit-ups, push-ups, leg lifts or other isolating strength activities you’ve taken on to “spot train”? While you can’t whittle away the fat on your belly only with sit-ups, you can tone those muscles so when you melt off the overlying fat through a healthy diet and exercise, your gorgeous abs will shine through. Plus, strong muscles have their own benefits …
    • Strong abs help support your back: improving your posture. You’ll look taller and reduce your risk of back injury.
    • As an added bonus, one pound of muscle burns 35-50 calories a day — even when you’re not doing anything!
    • Try more resistance and fewer repetitions to build strength. Do the opposite to build endurance.
    • A healthy diet, adding dietary supplements as appropriate, and cardio and strength training—combined, these are your best defense against fat all over your body and will help you fight fatigue and mood swings.
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