Spot reduction refers to the concept of reducing fat in specific area of the body through exercise. Spot reduction claims have been around a very long time...and have remained popular despite the lack of results. It seems like it should work, right? But then, it seems like the earth is flat. ("Look! There's the edge!") So why is there still so much confusion about this?
I don't know when spot reduction devices became a thing, but here's a classic:
Things got smaller and cheaper with slicker marketing but the spot reduction claims were just as bogus:
And the scam still continues today...here's just one example:
It's easy to understand why these things continue to sell--the appeal of spot reduction is undeniable. "Want to lose some belly fat? Just use our ABSolutely Silly Thingy for 10 minutes a day!"
It's not just infomercial products...we see the same claims made for doing exercises like curls (to "tone" your arms) or planks (an endless barrage of "challenges" promise to "torch belly fat" or whatever). It's a great marketing ploy, if you don't mind being dishonest.
This certainly doesn't mean exercise isn't helpful for reducing fat. For one thing, it burns more calories which can help produce a caloric deficit (burning more calories than you consume) and that's essential for losing fat. It can also simulate spot reduction through muscle hypertrophy (making them larger). If a muscle is covered by a layer of fat, making that muscle bigger causes the fat to spread out to cover the increased surface area of the muscle. This can give the appearance of reducing fat around the muscle. (Conversely, losing fat can make muscles appear bigger.) But that's not reducing the amount of localized fat through exercise; that is, it's not spot reduction.
There may be things you can do to help target stubborn body fat. Improving hormone levels through certain dietary changes or better sleep might help. Doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) might help, too. But there's still no convincing evidence for any of these. The first place fat accumulates (typically waist for men, hips for women) is the last place it comes off, regardless of what exercises you do to work a particular area.
And really, if there is such a thing as spot reduction we should be seeing someone go from this:
Be seeing you.