Do ab machines work?

Fitness expert Greg Shealey answers common questions about diet and fitness:

Q: Can the ab machines sold on TV really get rid of "love handles"?

A: One of the many myths of toning "love handles" is that abdominal exercises cause fat loss in a specified area. That you can cause spot-specific reduction of fat could not be further from the truth.


Millions of Americans who have purchased and used abdominal exercise machines in an effort to lose weight around their middles will tell you that their efforts may have been in vain. Abdominal exercise machines can do nothing more than strengthen and tighten the abdominal muscles.

The best way to lose fat is through improved eating habits coupled with cardiovascular exercise. You must understand that performing abdominal exercises can, at best, cause people to lose weight by burning calories of carbohydrates but not calories of fat.

There are two ways to lose fat, one is to perform certain aerobic exercises that will speed up the metabolism and therefore burn fat, and the other is to use a low-fat diet. Many people begin exercising with the expectation that they will lose weight fast, not realizing that their efforts are being wasted if not coupled with diet modification. Knowing this, why do people continue to do abdominal exercises in an attempt to lose weight if it is not physiologically possible?

People in general are misinformed about loss and exercise and do not know any better. Moreover, manufacturers of abdominal exercise machines know this and take advantage of the average person's desperation to lose weight. It is against the law for companies to lie outright about performing abdominal exercises to attain fat loss.

In fine print, you will always see that a healthy nutritional plan should be used in conjunction with the product for best results. So, if you do indeed intend on tightening your "love handles" by using their abdominal exercise, your efforts may be in vain if not coupled with diet modification.

It is possible to attain fat loss on a healthy diet with zero exercise. But it is not possible to lose weight by eating an unhealthy diet even with all the exercise in the world. Fat reduction of the "love handles" can be attained at the fastest rate possible by following a low-fat diet and even faster when combined with certain types of cardiovascular exercises. Why waste time and effort with products that will not help you to tone your abdomen when a combination of exercise and low-fat diet is your best bet or a combination of exercise and low-fat diet will yield the best results.

Note: As always, consult with your health-care provider before beginning any fitness program.


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Greg Shealey is a health educator and president and founder of Bio-Fit and Wellness.