Q: What exercise can I do to reduce cellulite in my thighs and firm up? I’m over 50 and all I’m doing now is power walking. – Sandy
A: Sandy, I’ve been thinking about that lately, too! The weather just warmed up here in Utah and I pulled out my summer shorts—only to find they don’t look so great on me right now… Despite all the naysayers, I have found a few things that work for cellulite, including exercise, and I’ll be doing them along with you!
What Causes Cellulite?
Unfortunately, you can’t get rid of cellulite by simply shedding fat. It’s not the existence of subcutaneous fat but the way it’s distributed that causes this dimpling of the skin. According to Wikipedia, 80-90% of females have cellulite. (Guys get it, too, just not as often, and they don’t seem to care all that much).
Many dermatologists insist there’s nothing you can do about cellulite: it’s in the genes, they say. Still others claim that metabolism, hormones and stress play a part.
In the end, little has been concluded scientifically about cellulite’s causes or cures. Nonetheless, there’s plenty of advice out there for banishing it—from creams (I’ve had minimal luck), to body wraps, to massaging the skin with a boar-bristled brush (not pleasant, I’ve found, even if it does work).
If you’re lucky enough to see results from these “quick fixes,” it’s surely fleeting. Which is why I’m glad you asked about exercise.
Exercise: A Cure for Cellulite?
While experts aren’t explicitly saying that exercise gets rid of cellulite, Mayo Clinic asserts that an inactive lifestyle can cause it. They also say excess fat will make cellulite more noticeable. What I draw from that?
- Even if you can’t control how your body distributes fat under the skin, shedding excess fat helps.
- Firmer legs and buns can make cellulite look less apparent.
So Let’s Get Moving!
High-intensity cardio like power-walking is a great start for keeping legs trim, but to add firmness, you’ll want to start doing resistance exercises, too.
Squats, lunges, pliés and stair-climbing will firm up your inner thighs, outer thighs and glutes. These movements build muscle, which means double fat burn! For extra inner thigh toning, you can also do side leg lifts (inwards and outwards) with a resistance band or body bar.
If you’d like to start with a guided workout, one of my favorites is The Firm® Hips, Thighs and Abs DVD. It’s a quick 30 minute routine with a “Firm Box” (I just use an aerobic step) that delivers great leg and glute tone. It also has the best ab workout I’ve ever done. For those who get the tummy and “love handle” cellulite, a thorough core workout can be a godsend!
In addition to exercise, here’s what many people do to help improve tone and firmness:
- Foam rolling: If massage helps to smooth out cellulite dimples, then foam rolling surely will too. Plus, it feels much better than a bristle brush massage! Read more about foam rolling and watch a demonstration here.
- Protein: It facilitates muscle tone and development, so have a shake, bar or other protein source after every strength training workout. Get tips for maximizing protein’s benefits here.
- Supplements: Natural substances like green tea and resveratrol help the body metabolize fat more efficiently, and can be taken in supplement form. I’ve used both with very noticeable results.
- Water: Staying hydrated will preserve the skin’s elasticity, making it less likely to dimple and dent around fatty spots. So drink up!
(Many of the products I’ve mentioned, like the foam roller, exercise bands and metabolism-boosting supplements, can be found at IdealShape.)
While exercise can help reduce the appearance of cellulite (not to mention improve your health, strength and figure), remember this: The women who are considered to have the most beautiful bodies in the world have cellulite. This was revealed in an article about the dozens of layers of makeup applied to Victoria’s Secret models’ buns for a runway show. If 90% of us ladies—including the world’s top models—have cellulite and stretch marks, they can’t be that bad, right?