Exercises such as bicycle crunches can help minimize the appearance of love handles, as can dietary measures and certain choices of clothing.

“Love handles” are fatty areas on either side of the waist above the hips.They occur due to fat retention around the hips and abdominal area. People can try to take measures to minimize love handles, including regular exercise and maintaining a moderate weight. People may also consider avoiding tight clothing to further reduce the appearance of love handles.

Love handles are not dangerous in themselves, or anything to be ashamed of. People do not have to try to remove them if they do not wish to. That said, love handles can signal obesity, which may lead to a higher risk of certain conditions.

This article looks at love handles and their causes. It also explores exercises and lifestyle changes that may help people to minimize the appearance of love handles.

A person performing a squat exercise to try and reduce their love handles.Share on Pinterest
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The term “love handles” first appeared in the late 1960s. It refers to any weight that may have accumulated around the sides of an individual’s waist. This weight may also be visible extending over the edge of their pants or skirt.

“Muffin top” is another term people may use to describe body fat that extends above the edge of their waistline. The term references the shape of a muffin in a muffin case.

While specifically targeting body fat reduction around the waistline is not possible, a combination of cardiovascular exercises and weightlifting may aid weight loss.

Additionally, people may incorporate exercises that target specific areas of the body, such as the hips and abdomen. These exercises will not remove fat directly from these areas, but they can improve an individual’s muscle tone and contribute toward weight loss.

Bicycle crunches

Bicycle crunches involve an individual lying flat on their back with their legs lifted and knees bent.

The individual then contracts their abdominal muscles and twists their right elbow toward their left knee while fully extending their right leg. They then repeat this on the opposite side, 15–30 times.

Side planks

Side planks involve an individual initially lying on one side, using one arm to prop themselves up. They place one leg on top of the other, forming a straight line. They then raise their hips off the ground and hold this position for 30 seconds. They then repeat this on the other side.

Mountain climbers

Mountain climbers begin in a plank position. A person then brings their right knee up toward their chest while keeping their left leg extended. They hold this position briefly before switching legs in a swift movement, so that their left knee is now up by their chest.

It is important that people evenly distribute weight on both feet and do not shift all their weight to one foot. People can repeat this exercise for 30 sets, with bringing both knees to the chest counting as one set.

Russian twists

Russian twists begin with the individual in a seated position with their knees bent.

The person then twists their torso toward the left side and holds the position. They then turn their torso toward the right and hold. They can repeat this exercise for 30 repetitions.

To increase difficulty, people can perform the exercise with a weight.

The underlying cause of love handles is fat retention around specific areas of the body.

Fat cells accumulate when a person consumes more calories than they burn. Over time, this excessive consumption can lead to fat accumulation, especially in areas surrounding an individual’s hips and waist.

While fat can accumulate in any part of the body, fat storage is more common in certain areas of the body such as the abdominal area, hips, and lower back.

Many factors may influence body fat distribution and can contribute to the development of love handles, such as:


Hormones are chemical messengers that regulate bodily processes. Certain hormones such as leptin, insulin, sex hormones, and growth hormones can influence appetite, metabolism, and body fat distribution.

People with obesity may have fluctuations in their hormone levels, which may encourage the accumulation of body fat.

Sleep deprivation and stress

Both sleep deprivation and stress can affect cortisol levels. Cortisol is a glucocorticoid that affects metabolism, boosts appetite, and causes an individual’s body to store more fat.


Age may increase an individual’s likelihood of developing love handles, as body composition changes as people age. Typically, muscle mass will begin to decrease, while body fat accumulation increases. This can result in body fat accumulating around the hips and waist.

Physical inactivity

A lack of physical activity or regular exercise can contribute to love handle development. If an individual does not burn more calories than they consume, they may begin to accumulate body fat.

In addition to a lack of physical activity, a diet high in fats, sugars, and high-calorie foods may also contribute to fat accumulation.

Medical conditions

Untreated medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, can also increase the likelihood of weight gain and love handle development.

The thyroid gland produces hormones that help to manage bodily processes. If a person’s thyroid is not working correctly, they may gain weight and develop love handles. As hypothyroidism develops slowly, people may not notice symptoms for months or years.

Love handles are not dangerous in themselves. But obesity and body fat accumulation may lead to a higher risk of certain conditions such as:

Losing excess weight can help an individual to eliminate their love handles. In addition to regular exercise, the following tips may help:

  • Drink enough water: Although seemingly counterintuitive, water helps prevent dehydration and, therefore, fluid retention. Excessive fluid retention can make love handles appear worse.
  • Avoid alcohol and sugary foods: Consuming sugary food and alcohol may lead to weight gain and love handles. Individuals should instead try to eat a moderate and balanced diet. This may involve consuming lean proteins, beans, and leafy vegetables to increase protein and fiber intake. This can help a person feel fuller quickly and for longer, thereby avoiding excess calorie consumption.
  • Wear flattering clothing: Individuals can also minimize the appearance of love handles with loose-fitting pants and skirts that do not pinch the waist.

People can try to manage love handles through a combination of healthy eating and a variety of exercises. Love handles are not dangerous, but excess weight around the waist may contribute toward potential health complications.