I frequently get asked two questions by patients in the clinic, specifically when it comes to Fat Loss:
- How do I get rid of fat on my _____ (arms, legs, stomach, etc)?
- What is the best exercise for burning fat?
In this article, I’ll do my best to answer these questions and share what the research says about both of these burning questions.
How to Get Rid of Fat on your ______
Unfortunately, there’s no magic solution to spot treat fat loss.
The answer to the first question is not what anyone wants to hear. The reality is that our bodies lay fat wherever we are genetically predisposed to lay fat cells. In other words, you can’t spot treat fat loss. Doing a lot of tricep curls will not reduce the amount of cellulite on the back of your arms.
In positive news, when you build muscle, it firms up and improves the appearance of the skin, but the cellulite is still there.
Genetics & Fat Storage
Where our bodies lay fat is determined by genetics, age, sex, and skin thickness, so tricep curls won’t get rid of cellulite on the back of your arms. However, building muscle through exercise can firm up and improve the appearance of your skin.
“Genetics, sex, age, the amount of fat on your body and your skin’s thickness determine how much cellulite you have and how visible it is. As you age, your skin loses elasticity and can make the appearance of cellulite more evident. Gaining weight can also make the appearance of cellulite more prominent.”.
Which Exercises are Best for Fat Loss?
In response to the second question, there is not necessarily one exercise that is best for burning fat. Exercising in general is a wonderful way to burn fat. When balanced with a healthy diet, exercising in the aerobic range is an effective way to achieve fat loss. The aerobic range means exercising between 60-80% of your maximum heart rate..
An easy rule of thumb for calculating this number is 220-your age = max heart rate.
220 — [Your Age in Years] = Max Heart Rate
For me, that would be 220-34=186 beats per minute max heart rate. So my aerobic range would be 60-80% of this max heart rate, or 112-148 beats per minute. This is generally exercise that you can still talk through, not exercise that leaves you gasping for breath.
Choosing Exercises for Fat Loss
Once you find your heart range, you can use this for any type of exercise. Find a cheap fitness tracker (from Amazon, FitBit or Even an Apple Watch) that can track your heart rate, and find an activity that you enjoy.
Some examples that can get you in this range include walking, jogging, cycling, and swimming. Many gym machines such as treadmills and ellipticals are able to track your heart rate while you exercise.
Another thing to consider is that muscle requires more energy (aka calories) to maintain than fat does. This means that if we also build our muscle mass with strengthening exercises, we are not going to be storing as many calories as fat on our bodies.
Another bonus! High blood sugar and increased body mass are linked to increased pain sensitivity. So getting closer to your ideal body mass can lead to less chronic pain.
If you’re looking to get rid of stubborn fat and find the best exercise for burning fat, there are a few things to keep in mind. Unfortunately, there’s no magic solution to spot treat fat loss. Where our bodies lay fat is determined by genetics, age, sex, and skin thickness, so tricep curls won’t get rid of cellulite on the back of your arms. However, building muscle through exercise can firm up and improve the appearance of your skin.
Not sure where to begin? Check out some of our resources on exercise and strength training!
And for a controversial opinion on Keto diets, or high protein, low-carb diets, check out this article from Dr. McDougall.
 Carey DG. Quantifying differences in the “fat burning” zone and the aerobic zone: implications for training. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Oct;23(7):2090-5. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181bac5c5. PMID: 19855335. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19855335/
 Di Ye, Timothy J. Fairchild, Lechi Vo, Peter D. Drummond, High Blood Glucose and Excess Body fat Enhance Pain Sensitivity and Weaken Pain Inhibition in Healthy Adults: A Single-blind Cross-over Randomized Controlled Trial,
The Journal of Pain, Volume 24, Issue 1, 2023, Pages 128-144, ISSN 1526-5900,