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Question:

My son (age 20) has Type 1 Diabetes. He was diagnosed at the age of 9. His problem is as follows: He works out at the gym 3 times a week and lifts weights. He also rides a stationary bike 10 miles during his workout. He watches his fat intake and has good control over his diabetes. But he wants to lose what he calls his love handles around his mid section. His body is very muscular, legs arms chest. However his stomach needs work. He also works out with a Tony Little Abdominal Machine that is similar to sit-ups without the strain on his lower back. Nothing seems to work. It is really bothering him and I thought maybe your team would have an idea for perhaps a diet change, or a particular exercise he could try.

Answer:

I do not know your son's height, weight, body composition, the amount of time or the intensity at which he does his bike riding at the gym or what his daily diet consists of. All of the above are things to consider when looking at the entire picture. I really think it is great that your son is taking time to workout at the gym 3 times a week; engaging in a 10 mile bike ride, lifting weights as well as watching his fat intake. I trust that he is in good control of his diabetes without any complications that may affect his exercise routine (i.e., retinopathy or high blood pressure) and that he does check his blood glucose before and after each exercise session.

With regard to what he calls his "love handles," it seems as if you are actually asking for information about spot reducing. The Myth of Spot Reducing: What is it? Many individuals exercise to improve their body appearance. Spot reducing involves localized exercise in the belief that it reduces fat stores in the active areas. The underlying basis for this belief is that by exercising a specific body area, more fat will be selectively reduced from that area than if exercise of the same caloric intensity was performed by a different muscle group. So an advocate of spot reducing would encourage or recommend engaging in countless numbers of sit ups or using an abdominal machine to get rid of that mid section. It is believed that an increase in a muscle's activity facilitates or aids in a relatively greater fat mobilization from the specific storage areas.

Current knowledge of energy supply indicates that exercise stimulates the mobilization of fatty acids through hormones delivered through the blood to act on the fat depots throughout the body. The areas of greatest fat concentration probably supply the greatest amount of the energy. The is simply no evidence the fatty acids are released to a greater degree from the fat pads directly over the exercising muscle.

Where the promise of spot reducing with exercise is extremely attractive to many of us from the aesthetic point of view, let's take a look at what research supports. The most convincing evidence against the spot reducing concept is that of high caliber tennis players. Comparisons were made of the circumferences and subcutaneous fat stores of their right and left forearms. The circumference of the dominant or playing arm was significantly larger than the non dominant arm. This was the result of a moderate muscular hypertrophy associated with the muscular overload provided by tennis. In essence, the dominant arm's muscles were worked more, therefore they became larger. However, measurements of fat fold thickness showed that there was no difference between arms in the quantity of subcutaneous forearm fat. Clearly prolonged exercise of the playing arm was not accompanied by reduced fat deposits specifically in that forearm.

The well know fact remains: exercise cannot rid the body of fat in specific places. Muscle tone can be improved in some areas of the body and thus may help to improve appearance somewhat. So keep up with the sit ups. In choosing an activity, however, the focus should be on caloric expenditure as well as enjoyment (to promote compliance) rather than spot reducing.

Finally, here is a reference you may like to read with regard to the piece of research I cited. I hope I have been of some help to you:

Gwinup,G.; Chelvam, R.; and Steinberg, T. Thickness of subcutaneous fat and activity of underlying muscles. Ann. Int. Med., 74: 408-11, 1971

PL

Original posting 21 Apr 97

  
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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:54
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