The real deal on ‘spot reducing’

Looking for spot reduction exercises to shift that burgeoning spare tyre? The hard truth is that spot reduction does not really exist.


Spot reduction as most people think of it isn’t possible,” says Nathan Johnson, exercise physiologist at the University of Sydney and spokesperson for Exercise and Sports Science Australia.


The good news is that certain kinds of exercise can reduce your overall weight, trim your waistline and lessen your risk of a range of serious conditions.


More than 80 per cent of your body’s fat is subcutaneous—the kind you can pinch under the skin. When you gain weight, this fat makes up most of the excess kilos.


There is also a small amount of visceral fat stored in and around internal organs. Visceral fat doesn’t add much to your body weight, but evidence indicates it has more potential for harm than subcutaneous fat.


Generally speaking, the more overweight you are, the more visceral fat you’re likely to have—and the greater your risk of conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” says Johnson.


The best guide to visceral fat risk is waist circumference around the navel. A measurement of more than 102 cm for men and 88 cm for women is considered too high.


According to Johnson, the best way to reduce visceral fat is through regular aerobic exercise. Try brisk walking for at least 20 minutes, 3–5 days per week. Aim for a pace where you’re breathing more quickly but can maintain a conversation. 


To find an exercise physiologist, contact Exercise & Sports Sciences Australia

Phone 07 3862 4122

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Email [email protected]


Article written by Fiona Marsden

*The photos included in this article are taken from MRI scans of three people, looking from the feet upwards. The whitish areas around the outside are subcutaneous fat. The whitish areas on the inside are mostly visceral fat. The person in the photo at the top of the page has relatively little subcutaneous and visceral fat compared with the person in Photo (A). The person in Photo (B) has the most visceral fat, putting them at more risk of serious health conditions.