I would like to discuss today another popular question for Personal Trainers. It is about the dreaded cellulite. I am sure you know what I am talking about. Standing in that fitting room with those horrible unfavourable cold lights mercilessly exposing every little dent on your skin. The dimples and holes and squishy skin on your thighs. The cottage cheese appearance. It is said that 90% of women are affected by cellulite. It can be easily covered up under pants and skirts, but come summer and the beach season it’s showtime and we want to rock our hot bikinis! So, is there anything we can do to make those unsightly dimples go away? Yes! But first, let me explain.
Cellulite is common among mostly female adolescents and adults. Men suffer less from it as their fat cells, muscles and connective tissue are distributed differently in the skin. The cottage cheese look is caused by fat deposits pushing and distorting the connective tissue under the skin. It mostly affects thighs and hips, but it can also be found on arms, breasts and belly.
The extent to which you are affected by cellulite depends on various factors: heredity, skin thickness, gender, the amount and distribution of body fat, and age influence how much your cellulite is visible.
Now I am not going to discuss here all the various medical therapies, creams and treatments that exist to treat (more or less successfully) cellulite. I am a Personal Trainer and as such I only address the effect of exercise on cellulite here.
If you check out pinterest, or fitness magazines and websites, you find that a lot of exercises are marketed as cellulite reducing and cellulite blasting. Various fitness experts and personal trainers make you believe that if you follow their programmes, your legs and other problem areas will be smooth and dimple free. But is it true?
As mentioned above, cellulite depends on a lot of factors, some of which you cannot influence by exercise. And although losing body fat and a healthy diet help if you are overweight, skinny people can have cellulite too. I, and you probably too, have seen top models with cellulite. But there is lighting, makeup, photoshop and other editing tools that glosses over those flaws and give them perfectly smooth skin – and we feel ever more insecure and unattractive. So don’t be fooled, and make sure you have realistic expectations when it comes to doing exercise to reduce cellulite. I don’t want to shatter your dreams, but to be honest: exercise helps, it shapes your muscles, sweating helps to detox, circulation gives you a healthy glow and, most of all, exercise makes you happy. But it cannot erase your genetic makeup.
Now, in addition to losing body fat if you are overweight, the other thing you can do is strength train. According to Dr. Wayne Westcott, a combination of strength training and cardio exercise can reduce the appearance of cellulite (you can find one of his workouts here). Firming and toning the muscles under the dimpled areas will tighten the skin, giving the illusion that cellulite is less noticeable. Boosting circulation and blood flow is also important.
Use dumbbells, weight machines, elastic bands or body weight for strength training and focus on routines that strengthen the muscles underneath areas of cellulite.
Exercises such as lunges, squats, bridges, step ups and all their variations are great for the lower body which is where most women have cellulite – the thighs and glutes. These exercises should be done 2 to 3 times a week.
Circulation is enhanced by doing exercise. You can also get massages or use hot/cold showers or sauna and cold showers to improve circulation. Cardio exercise is helpful too to get the blood flowing.
If you have read my blog on spinning, you probably know how great spinning is for reducing the appearance of cellulite in your lower body. It’s the perfect combination of strength training (only if you are training at a high resistance, not if you are free-wheeling!) and blood circulation. I am saying that from my own experience. In my case, losing weight (body fat) and building muscle helped. And after I started doing spinning classes a couple of times a week I noticed a big improvement. The back and sides of my thighs are not exactly dimple free, but certainly look far better than what they used to.
I would love to hear about your own experience with cellulite – whether it is something that bothers you and whether you have been successful or not trying to reduce it.