Tone Your Waistline Without Crunches

May 19, 2015 Updated: May 19, 2015

You cannot get rid of belly fat by exercising your belly muscles. Forty overweight women were given either a weight-reduction diet or the same diet plus abdominal resistance training. After 12 weeks, both groups had the same weight decrease, abdominal subcutaneous fat, waist circumference, hip circumference, body mass index, body fat percentage, and skin fold thickness. 

Exercising a specific muscle does not get rid of more fat over that muscle in comparison to the rest of your body. If it did, tennis players would have less fat in their tennis arms, and this does not happen. Strength training strengthens weak muscles, but it cannot remove fat specifically over the strengthened muscle.

Another study showed that men who exercised one arm against heavy resistance for 12 weeks appeared to lose more fat in their exercised arm than their inactive one when fat was measured by a caliper that calculated skin thickness. However, when the same authors used an MRI machine to measure fat underneath the skin, there was no difference between the exercised arm and the non-exercised arm.

When you take in more calories than your body burns, you store the extra calories as fat. More than half of the fat in your body is stored underneath your skin and over your muscles. Your stomach will look better when your belly muscles are strong, but sit-ups or crunches will not remove extra fat from your belly. The only way to lose fat from a specific part of your body is to lose weight overall.

Gabe Mirkin, M.D., has been a practicing physician for over 50 years. He is board-certified in sports medicine, allergy and immunology, pediatrics, and pediatric immunology. This article was originally published on Subscribe to his free weekly Fitness & Health newsletter.

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