Why Women Have More Arm Fat Than Men

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“Arm fat” is such an ugly phrase for something so common: that softer part of your arm or the pinchable bit between your sports bra and the crevice of your armpit both commonly fall into this category. 

But such a small part of your body can be a major sore spot for so many women. 

In fact, so many women hate their bingo wings and upper arms that they’re actually seeking surgery to get rid of it.

Nearly 25,000 women received upper arm lifts—a cosmetic surgery procedure that reduces drooping skin and tightens the underlying tissue to give the arm more definition—in 2016. That number is up 4,959% since 2000, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

But here’s the most important thing to remember about arm fat: It’s totally normal. That pocket of chub nestled between one’s underarms and boobs? Way more common that sculpted chests of fitness models. 

The really natural cause of arm fat

So many women have it because, thanks to our higher estrogen levels, we store more fat than men. On average, women carry 6 to 11% more body fat than men do, according to Australian research. After all, women need a certain amount of fat to be healthy—a minimum of 12% of their total weight, to be exact, should come from essential fat, which is found in your heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, intestines, muscles and tissues of the central nervous system, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine.“Body fat is structurally important,” explains Stefanie Mendez, R.D., co-founder of Matriarch, a women’s fitness and nutrition service. “It cushions our organs and insulates our body for temperature control and also is our body’s source of energy reserves. Beyond that, fat is needed for the production of hormones and reproduction functions.”

And that fat can show up in your thighs, your belly and, yes, your upper arms. Where it goes is partly due to genetics; if your mum has arm fat, science says you have a 62% chance of inheriting that trait.

A healthy approach to losing arm fat

In reality, there’s nothing you can do about your hormones or your DNA and spot-reduction just flat-out doesn’t work, Mendez says. For example, in one study of tennis players, researchers found that there were no significant differences in the amount of fat on their dominant and non-dominant arms.

Instead, focus on living the healthy, well fuelled and physically active lifestyle that you know you need to lead anyway. By doing that, you’ll see far greater results in the arm department, anyway, Mendez says. Through a combination of balanced eating (hit all three macros at every meal) and performing a combination of high-intensity interval cardio and strength training, you’ll naturally shed fat all over, including around your arms, explains Lauren Williams, C.P.T., a trainer at PROJECT Equinox.

You’ll also build muscle to fill out your arms and firm them up.

“Generally, when people are complaining about underarm jiggle, they’re usually referring to the area that is governed by the tricep,” says Williams. “If the jiggle or looseness in that part of your arm is due to a lack of muscle, then strengthening and building muscle in your tricep will also create some change in the aesthetic of that area.” She recommends performing triceps dips, push-ups and extensions to hone in on that area and add some muscular definition to your arms.

5-Minute Tricep Workout

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But, no, they aren’t going to zap your arm fat. At least now you know the truth of what you’re dealing with.

This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US. 

Sweating tonight? Try this glute workout or using some resistance bands for glutes.