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Brisk walking helps to burn fat all over the body.
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When it comes to the myth of spot reducing - that is, burning fat from just one part of your body - there's good news and bad news to be had. The bad news is that spot reducing, in your arms, legs or anywhere else, is in fact a myth. The body systems that remove excess fat really don't care which muscles you're working or where you wish the fat would come off first.
The good news is that although you can't spot reduce, you can reduce body fat by combining a healthy, nutrient-rich diet with cardio exercises that burn enough calories to create a caloric deficit - i.e., you're burning more calories than you take in. You can also use strategic strength-training exercises to sculpt and tone the lean tissue that's revealed once the excess body fat is gone.
Choose Your Cardio
The more calories you burn, the faster you'll lose body fat - from everywhere. Here's how many calories an 185-pound person can burn in 30 minutes of exercise, based on figures from Harvard Health Publishing:
- Walking at 3.5 mph: 178 calories
- Playing softball: 222 calories
- Low-impact aerobics: 244 calories
- Hiking: 266 calories
- Circuit training: 355 calories
- Bicycling: 355 calories
- Running at 5 mph: 355 calories
- Stationary rowing: 377 calories
- Elliptical trainer: 400 calories
- Martial arts: 444 calories
- Jumping rope: 444 calories
If you've found a cardio workout you like, but you want to burn more calories, then plan longer workouts into your day or introduce intervals of higher intensity. That could mean swimming, cycling, walking or running faster, but it can also mean cycling, walking or running up a hill, or increasing the resistance on your elliptical trainer or stationary rower.
Tone Your Arms
You can burn calories and tone your arms at the same time. Consider tackling workouts like rock climbing, boxing, calisthenics, swimming, kayaking and rowing (or using a rowing machine).
Weight training is an excellent way to burn calories and sculpt the look of your arms. Maximize your calorie burn by doing compound, multi-joint exercises like chest presses, lat pulldowns and shoulder presses, or focus on the particular muscles you want to tone with exercises like triceps kickbacks, lateral raises and biceps curls.
Tone Your Legs
Some of the just-mentioned cardio workouts are great for toning your legs, too, particularly calisthenics and rowing, which are genuine full-body workouts. Walking, hiking, running, cycling and climbing stairs are also great leg toners, as are weight-training exercises that focus on your lower body, such as squats, lunges, deadlifts and calf raises.