Ask our expert: Are cardio machines like the StepMill good for targeting lower-body trouble zones?

Bryan Haycock explains the difficulties when trying to lose fat on the hips and thighs and offers a possible solution.

April 20, 2013
Ask our expert: Are cardio machines like the StepMill good for targeting lower-body trouble zones?

Q. My butt and thighs are my biggest trouble zones even though I work out three or four times a week. Should I try a cardio machine like a StairMaster?

A. Both the StepMill and
 StairMaster are great cardio options, but before I answer your question let me briefly explain the problem you might be facing and offer a possible solution.

Not all fat is created equal. The fat cells directly beneath the skin (called subcutaneous fat) differ considerably from the fat found throughout your abdomen in their responsiveness to diet and exercise. The truth is that the fat surrounding your internal organs readily gives up fat in response to calorie restriction and exercise, whereas the fat beneath the skin seems to require more than just eating smaller meals and taking a walk around the block.

Another important thing to know about losing fat on the hips and thighs is that these cells are very sensitive to insulin, which is elevated when we eat lots of carbs (particularly sugar). The insulin acts to prevent these fat cells from responding to our body’s call to release fat. As long as sugars such as refined starch, table sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup are in the diet, these stubborn fat cells will be virtually immune to moderate diet and exercise.

My suggestion to you is this: Maintain your current exercise regimen. Then, try to focus on eliminating simple sugars from your diet. These may be in the form of pre-sweetened cereal; white bread, including bagels, sandwich breads, and most muffins; white pasta; and even rice cakes. Avoid sweets like soda, cookies, and candy as well, and find low-sugar snacks like some of the new nutrition bars or Greek yogurt with fruit. Then, after your eating regimen has been in place a few weeks and you’re feeling comfortable with it, go ahead and give the StairMaster or even the StepMill a try.