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The Best Exercises for Love Handles

written by: Dr. Kristie Leong • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 6/29/2011

Tired of trying to hide those annoying love handles? Find out what what the best exercises for love handles are - and how to reduce excess abdominal fat.

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    Love handles are an annoying problem that plagues both men and women. Not only is too much fat cushioning the mid-section unattractive, it can also adversely affect a person’s health.

    Abdominal obesity increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. It’s more than just a cosmetic problem. Fortunately, good nutrition and a consistent exercise program can help to reduce those mounds of fat that fall over your trousers.

    What are the best exercises for love handles?

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    The Truth about Exercises for Love Handles

    It may come as a disappointment to find out you can’t “crunch away” love handles. Many people assume that abdominal crunches and exercises targeted to the waist and abdomen will magically melt those love handles away. Not so. Love handles are fat deposits, and there’s no way to selectively remove fat from an area except by liposuction. Simply put - spot reduction doesn’t work.

    Does this mean exercising to reduce love handles is worthless? Absolutely not. It’s a question of doing the right kind of exercise. To exercise away love handles, you need to get your heart rate up and sweat a little. Aerobic exercise burns fat, but it doesn’t selectively whittle away love handles. When you do aerobic exercise consistently, you get fat-loss everywhere – including those annoying love handles.

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    High Intensity Exercise

    The best type of fat-burning exercise for love handles isn’t a leisurely walk in the park or a stroll on the treadmill. High-intensity exercise is best – particularly interval training. The reason high-intensity interval training is more effective is because of a hormone called cortisol.

    Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal medulla in response to stress – including exercise, and it directly contributes to the problem of tummy fat and love handles. Cortisol levels rise most during sustained exercise at a moderate intensity – and less so during short workouts of twenty minutes or less. The key is to work out hard during that twenty minute period to burn calories and boost the metabolism, yet still keep it short enough to keep cortisol levels at bay.

    One way to do this is to interval train where you work very hard for one minute, and then rest for two minutes – alternating back and forth for a total of twenty minutes. You can do this using any piece of aerobic equipment, including a treadmill, exercise bike, or elliptical machine. It’s a tough workout, but it boosts the metabolism and increases fat breakdown. It’s even more effective if you can fit in two twenty minute fat-burning workouts a day.

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    What About Weight Training?

    Even though aerobic exercise is the best exercise for love handles, weight training is important too. Doing an all-over strength or weight training program to increase lean body mass helps to boost the metabolism and burn more fat at rest. This reduces stubborn abdominal fat. Concentrating on core and abdominal exercises helps to tone and define the abdominal region, which makes love handles less noticeable. Building up the deltoids and pectoral muscles in the upper body also helps to call attention away from love handles by drawing the eye upward and creating a more balanced shape.

     

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    The Bottom Line?

    High-intensity aerobics combined with a weight training program that emphasizes the upper body and core will do the most to eliminate love handles. Do abdominal crunches – but don’t neglect upper body strengthening exercises, high-intensity aerobics, and core strengthening.

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    References

    Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 79 (3): 379–84.

    "U.Va. Study: High-Intensity Exercise Best for Improving Body Composition"