Is it possible to lose weight specifically in “problem areas” through exercise??

Whether belly, buttocks or thighs – we are often dissatisfied with a specific body part. Can you lose weight specifically there?

By Carolin Berscheid | 22. June 2021, 13:15

arms too flabby, legs too fat, rolls on hips or belly – almost everyone has some "problem zone". So it’s not surprising that people want to lose weight in exactly these places. But is it possible to lose weight specifically at all? FITBOOK asked an expert.

Many people are dissatisfied with certain parts of their body. To change these with sport or a diet, is laborious and takes time. Lose weight specifically or. Targeted fat loss is therefore the motto for many men. But is that at all possible? The answer has fitness professor Dr. Stephan Geisler.


Why lose weight specifically?

There are countless reasons why people want to lose weight. Apart from the health risks such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease associated with excess weight, some people are simply dissatisfied with their proportions and want to lose fat only in certain parts of the body. 1,2 At the same time, one should know: Where body fat accumulates depends on gender, weight as well as lifestyle habits.

Some store fat proportionally, while others have disproportionate amounts of fat on their arms, hips, butt or thighs. For example, in women of childbearing age, fat accumulates mainly on the abdomen and hips. After menopause, fat shifts more to the abdominal area. In comparison, men have less body fat in general, but more to do with visceral fat, the dangerous belly fat around the middle of the body. 3

Goes specifically to lose weight? What the expert says

To say it in advance: What science actually agrees on is the fact that the body does not discriminate in fat loss. That means, it takes itself its reserves with the decrease basically evenly from everywhere. Fitness expert Prof. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Stephan Geisler so. „Basically, fat burning is something that is systemic (= not only locally, note. d. Red.) works", he says FITBOOK and clears up thereby over usual defense myths.

Takes off first in the face?

„But you have become narrow in the face!“ This sentence is often heard by people who are currently dieting and have already achieved their first weight losses. But is it really the case that you lose weight in the face first? „Well, it’s certainly no secret that the first thing you notice about many people is that they’ve lost weight", says Geisler. The simple reason: "As a rule, you generally have less fat on your face than on your stomach or buttocks, for example. Assuming, therefore, that one would lose weight evenly everywhere in percentage terms, it would still be seen first in the face.“

If you search the Internet for exercises for targeted facial weight loss, you will often come across supposedly helpful slimming tricks. It is said to be effective if you form a kissing mouth, suck in the cheeks and hold it for a few seconds. But is it possible to lose weight specifically in the face?? The expert sees it rather critically. „I’m pretty sure there’s no scientific research on this one. And also from my physiological point of view I would personally rather doubt this", says Geisler.

Fat reduction through targeted use of heat?

Another myth that persists in connection with weight loss: The assertion that direct exposure to heat on certain parts of the body has an influence on fat loss by promoting local blood circulation which in turn is supposed to boost fat burning. For example, you can buy special heat belts that you put around your stomach. The manufacturers advertise that they can virtually melt away unwanted fat deposits. Even normal common sense should have doubts about such absurd miracle weapons the Fitnessprofessor puts after: "If it would be so simple, one could exaggeratedly said, finally also simply one week into the Sauna set and would have afterwards a dream body. But logically this will not happen.“

Muscle building with magnetic wave impulses?

Caution is also advised with products that promise targeted muscle building without training with magnetic wave impulses: "As long as such providers can not yet explicitly demonstrate international, scientific studies regarding the effectiveness, I would be rather skeptical here.“

Study provides evidence that targeted weight loss can work

With regard to a study of the University of Rome, fitness professor Geisler does not want to exclude a local and targeted fat loss. Scientists had investigated whether different training combinations could possibly have an influence on the "regional" weight loss Fat burning can take.

The scientists had 16 untrained women in their early 30s exercise three times a week over a period of three months. Two groups were formed: One trained strength with the upper body and endurance with the lower body, group two trained the other way around.

The training of the study participants

Group 1 completed a so-called "Upper Body Resistance Training". These women completed five different exercises for the upper body with three sets eachà ten repetitions and then rode a bicycle ergometer for 30 minutes at a relaxed endurance speed. The other group trained according to the same principle in reverse ("Lower Body Resistance Training") with five exercises for the lower body and 30 minutes on the arm ergometer.

The test subjects documented their diet with a diary. However, no additional diet was explicitly carried out. Also the normal, everyday activity level should remain the same.

Results showed significant differences in fat loss

With regard to the percentage of fat mass, the results actually showed significant differences. Those who had trained strength with the upper body and endurance with the lower body had lost noticeably more fat on their arms. And also the other way round it behaved similarly with the body fat loss at the legs, which turned out with group 2 more highly. Prof. Geisler sees a tendency here that different forms of training can have a different effect on fat loss in different parts of the body.

Critical classification of the study

Nevertheless, Geisler has some criticisms of the study: "There is only a very small N-number here (= number of the total study participants, note. d. Red.) with two times eight, i.e. a total of sixteen test subjects, this is far from conclusive.“ He also criticizes that the monitoring of the diet was only covered by a diary. Nutrition is also an important factor in losing weight. Also, the distribution of muscle mass could have a big influence, but this was not considered further in the study. „On the bicycle ergometer, you can do a lot more physical work overall than on the arm ergometer. That’s because we have significantly more muscle mass in our legs. Therefore, this will fundamentally make a difference in both strength and endurance training in terms of total caloric expenditure.", he describes the possible cause of deviations in local fat loss.

Conclusion of the fitness professor

As a result, Prof. Geisler states: "The study may not be perfect, but from my point of view it at least gives a tendency.“ Basically, he holds to his statement that probably no local fat reduction through targeted training is possible. However, based on the results of the study, this issue should certainly be investigated more closely in the future. He himself is planning further research in this area with his team.

This is the right way to lose fat

In general, Geisler recommends a combination of strength and endurance training to anyone who wants to train particularly effectively for fat burning. Thus, during endurance training, a particularly large amount of energy is burned and the cardiovascular system is strengthened. In addition, you can build up muscle mass with strength exercises and thus boost fat burning again. This is because regular strength training increases the daily basal metabolic rate, which means that you automatically burn more fat even when you are not exercising.

About the person: Prof. Dr. Stephan Geisler is Professor of Fitness and Health at the IST University in Dusseldorf and lecturer in Olympic Weightlifting at the German Sport University in Cologne. There he also did his doctorate in the field of molecular sports medicine. His research and teaching focus on strength training. He has been training students and fitness instructors for over 15 years and is the author of several international professional publications. On his YouTube channel Fitnessprofessor and on Facebook he gives tips and tricks for athletes and trainers. You can find more from the fitness professor here!

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