Reducing Abdominal Fat and Why Spot Reduction Doesn’t Work

The abdominal area is the one area on your body that consistently tells the truth about the state of your current fitness level. There is no hiding it; if you have been “hibernating” like most people over the course of the winter, then come spring time you know it and activity levels typically start to pick up. Now that we have summer soon upon us everyone starts to hit the gym or tries to get more consistent at their Koko FitClub. Many will try various diets, hundreds of sit-ups and chronic cardio to try to spot reduce the adipose tissue (fat) that is covering their abdominal area. Will all this exercise help or are you just wasting your time?

muscles-of-the-abdominal-wallAs you begin to focus on your caloric intake, strength training and increasing your activity, you will start to see a change in body composition. Fat loss, however, will come from all the areas (not just your abs) where you happen to be storing extra adipose tissue.  A good motivational tool is to take a look at your waist or hip measurement periodically and for Koko members it’s your FitCheck reading (eBMI) that you need to monitor. Performing hundreds of sit-ups may get your abdominal muscles stronger but it will not help you lose or “burn” fat from just this one area. According to McArdle and Katch, “the underlying basis of this notion is that by exercising a specific area, more fat will be selectively reduced from that area.” Current knowledge of energy supply, however, indicates that exercise stimulates the mobilization of fatty acids through hormones delivered through the blood to act on the fat depots throughout the body.1  A classic study that was performed back in 1984, looked at fat biopsies that were taken from the abdominal area before and after a 27-day period that had subjects progressively increase the number of sit-ups they were doing. Subjects started with 140 sit-ups a day and by the end of the study they were doing 336 sit-ups a day. The group averaged 185 sit-ups a day while a control group did not exercise. Following the study, the fat cells in the abdominal area were not reduced. There were no significant changes in either fat-folds, girth, or total fat content assessed by underwater weighing.2

Now that you know spot reduction is history, focus on with what and how often you’re fueling your body for the summer months, stay active and focus on improving overall body strength and you soon may be surprised at how good you look!


(1) Sonka J., (1978). Effects of diet on or diet and exercise in weight reducing regimens. Nutrition Physical Fitness, and Health. Edited by J Parizkova et al. Baltimore, MD, University Park Press.

(2) Katch F I , (1984). Effects of sit-up exercise on adipose cell size and adiposity. Res Q Exercise Sport, 55: 242

(3) McArdle WD, Katch F I, Katch VL, (1991). Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance, Philadelphia, PA, Lea & Febiger


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