Love Handles: Causes, Exercises and More

Saravanan "Sharu" Hariram

August 19, 2021

Both men and women can develop love handles. It refers to the excess fat deposits at the lower midsection of the body. When small pockets of fat deposit above the hip bone and on either side of the waist, they are called love handles. They also go by the name of muffin tops. This is due to its resemblance to puffed-up muffins.

However, there is a minor difference between the two. Muffin tops are fat deposits further back and near the flanks. Though both the names may sound charming, they simply refer to fat retention at the hips and abdominal area.

Reasons for Love Handles

The main reason for fat accumulation is consuming excess calories and lack of exercise. This may either be due to higher intake and/or insufficient calorie burn through physical activities. The body stores energy that it cannot burn in the form of fat. Genetics play a part too and consequently, fat gets stored as love handles.

Love handles can also be a result of aging, menopause, hormonal imbalance in women, and andropause (male menopause) in men. Women can develop love handles after childbirth with weight gain. Sometimes body types also determine the fat deposits. 

Contrary to its name, most people prefer to get rid of the side fat than love it. However, if you think that spot reduction will reduce love handles, it is not a solution. To be honest, spot reduction of fat is not possible. These fat pockets at the side of the hips are often stubborn to lose.

Following some basic steps and exercising regularly keeps your body fit. This, in turn, can reduce the appearance of love handles. Some toning exercises for the abdominal area can be of help too. Loose clothes can make you look slimmer. Tight clothing makes love handles appear more prominent.

Let’s explore the causes and potential risks involved in having love handles. Let’s also explore the suggested exercises and other solutions to combat them. 

Causes of Love Handles

Causes of Love Handles

The primary source for love handles is the storing of excess fat on the hips and abdomen. The extra fat retention can be due to multiple reasons. Figuring out the cause for your love handles is the first step in getting rid of them.

1. High Cortisol Level

Cortisol is a metabolic hormone that is produced during times of stress. It is the main stress hormone in the body. Production of cortisol in higher amounts leads to fat storage around the midsection. Those who continuously go through stressful situations may develop Cushing’s syndrome. Storing fat in the lower torso area is a symptom of this syndrome.

2. Ageing

As you grow older, your body fat compositions also change. Most people begin to store fat in the belly and hip area. The main reason for this is the hormonal shift and loss of muscle. In women, the reduction of estrogen after menopause can lead to love handles. Men also face lower testosterone levels, it is not a solution that results in the same. Muscle loss further accelerates weight gain.

3. Poor Diet

Love handles and your daily intake pretty much go together. Do not stuff your body with more calories than it needs. Many people opt for sugary drinks and fast foods which have a high calorific value. Though it may not fill you up, it takes away a major portion of your daily calorie limit. Making poor diet choices regularly will lead to excess fat throughout the body, including love handles.

Common Indian diets also lack protein content. Another common reason is that the tendency to pile on carbohydrates, fat, and spicy food to compensate for lack of nutrition with taste. Coupled with irregular eating patterns, late-night dinners and sedentary lifestyles add to this problem.

4. Sleep Deprivation

Studies show that constant lack of sleep is correlated to having a larger waist circumference. Adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Staying up late reduces energy. level, which in turn increases food cravings, which leads to weight gain. Sleep deprivation also causes physical inactivity and reduced energy for movements throughout the day.

5. Lower Activity Level

Physical activities and exercises help to burn extra calories. Lack of this is another reason for fat to deposit. People who follow a sedentary lifestyle tend to consume more calories. It is the opposite for those who regularly work out. They tend to feel fuller for longer periods after a meal. Exercise also helps to improve the quality of sleep.

6. Alcohol

Alcoholic drinks fall under the category of high-calorie foods. It can easily throw you off track with your daily calorie limit. Being conscious of the calories it contains prevents fat gain. The liver processes alcohol in the same way as fats. The liver of a heavy drinker needs to continuously prioritize alcohol over fat. This leads to fats taking a back seat. It eventually gets stored in the body.

7. Genetic Structure

The genetic design makes it hard to lose the love handles. Poor dietary and lifestyle issues lead to excess fat deposits as well. 

8. Medical Conditions

Medical conditions like hypothyroidism, slip disk, long post-operative recovery can lead to weight gain around the abdominal and hip area and pinchable love handles can be a result of that.

Potential Health Risks Involving Love Handles

Love handles are quite common in most people. They do not pose a great risk to your health. However, it may be an underlying sign of some chronic diseases such as –

  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart ailments
  • High cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Sleep apnea

Reducing overall body fat and love handles can rule out the possibility of several lifestyle diseases in the long run

Suggested Exercises for Love Handles

Though no specific exercise can target love handles and make you lose fat directly from there, the following exercises can definitely help in toning the midsection effectively. 

1. Russian Twists

Russian Twists

These twists are ideal to tone the abdominal and oblique muscles. You can do 3-4 sets of 15-20 reps on each side. 

2. Torso Rotations

Torso Rotations

These are relatively easier to do. It involves standing straight and twisting your torso from one side to another. You can do 3-4 sets of 20-25 reps on each side. 

3. Bicycle Crunches

Bicycle Crunches

The bicycle crunches give a good burn to the entire abdominal section. Do it slowly and steadily for the best results. You can do 3-4 sets of 15-20 reps on each side. 

4. Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers

This exercise is a great way to sweat and tone the core muscles. Increase your speed as you get stronger. Do 3-4 sets of 15-20 reps on each side. 

5. Glute Bridge

Glute Bridge

Apart from toning the glutes, this exercise also tones love handles from the back. You can do 3-4 sets of 15-20 reps.  

6. Crab Kicks

Crab Kicks

Crab kicks require minimal effort. It tones the hip and waistline. Do 3-4 sets of 15-20 reps. 

Other forms of exercise:

Apart from doing the above-listed exercises for toning the midsection, including other types of workouts can make this process more effective.

1. Cardiovascular exercises

Cardiovascular exercises

One needs to reduce overall body weight to shrink love handles. Cardio exercises like jogging, running or cycling will make you break a sweat with ease and help in burning additional calories. These are steady-paced workouts that are good for beginners.



High-intensity interval training or HIIT involves short bursts of exercise, followed by brief periods of rest. 10 seconds of high-speed running and 30 seconds of slow jogging or walking is an example of HIIT. Research says it’s an effective way of losing weight with a shorter workout time.

3. Dancing


In general, dancing is an excellent form of cardio workout. Belly dancing involves a lot of twisting and turning of the hips and abdomen. Hence, it is an effective way to lose a substantial amount of calories along with toning the love handles. Salsa, hip hop, and all other Indian dance forms are also good ways to burn extra calories.


Love handles are a colloquial term for hip and abdomen fat. The body stores this fat, leading to bulges above the hips and around the waists. Poor diet, lack of sleep, and low physical activity are some of the main reasons for fat storage. High levels of stress hormone and genetics of a person are also reasons for the same.

The bottom line is, following a good lifestyle with proper diet and exercise is key to weight loss. It helps to maintain or reduce total body weight and keeps your love handles at bay.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Is it possible to get rid of love handles by exercising only?

A. Exercise plays a key role in losing your love handles. There is no specific exercise that will solely work on love handles. Reduce your overall body weight to see a real difference.  Focusing only on exercise will not be sufficient. It is a combination of a good diet, sleep schedule, and exercise that will get rid of love handles.

Q. Is alcohol responsible for love handles?

A. Regular consumption of alcohol can lead to love handles. Alcoholic drinks are high in calories. They tend to take up a large portion of your calorie limit with ease. This can lead to overall weight gain, and in turn, love handles. Moreover, the liver of heavy drinkers processes alcohol for a longer time. This leads to fats getting stored in the body.

Q. Is excessive dieting ok to get rid of love handles?

A. Extreme dieting is not an ideal solution for losing love handles. Though it may lead to significant weight loss, ie later effects are not favorable in the beginning. The main reason being, it is a short-term effect. It becomes impractical and hard to maintain. Excessive dieting also starves the body of necessary nutrients. Putting your body into starvation mode has adverse effects on your health too.

Q. Are love handles and muffin tops the same?

A. Both love handles and muffin tops are excess fat deposition in the midsection of the body. Though they are often synonymous with one another, they are physically different. Love handles are fat pockets above the hip bones. Muffin tops are further at the back, near the flanks. It is present at the edge of the waistline and moves horizontally.

Q. Are love handles genetic?

A. The genetic structure of your body decides where the fat gets stored. Some people’s body fat composition is in such a way that the majority of fat stores above the hip bones. Extra weight gained will easily be visible at the love handles for such people. However, the right diet and exercise can easily counteract genetic makeup.

About the Author

Saravanan “Sharu” Hariram is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer with a passion for bodybuilding. Combining his love for fitness with his career, Sharu did his certification in Sports Nutrition, and Rehabilitation and Healing Nutrition. Currently a Master Trainer with HealthifyMe, he specializes in Weight Management, Marathon Training, and Physical Rehabilitation. In his 20+ years of experience, Sharu has always maintained that one’s mind must have control over their body in order to lead a healthy life. At HealthifyMe, he continues to follow his passion while helping those around him realise their fitness goals.

Related Articles


3 responses to “Love Handles: Causes, Exercises and More”

  1. It’s really informative post. I recently started workout and your post help me alot it’s inspirational post. Keep sharing with us more!

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your health is our priority. Talk to one of our experts and get the best plan for you today.
Chat With Us