An exercise regimen that incorporates lifting weights can enhance your overall effort to reduce the appearance of cellulite. As you build muscle, you burn calories faster and that promotes weight loss, which improves the appearance of your skin. However, losing pounds and strengthening the muscles in your cellulite-prone areas won't completely eliminate the dimpled skin texture because it doesn't resolve the root cause of the disorder.
Cellulite forms in the subcutaneous fat layer — the uppermost layer of fat that the body maintains for structural support and insulation. As the elasticity of the connective tissue surrounding that fat layer decreases, the fibers tighten over the fat layer. The layer of fat presses up against the weakened connective tissue, resulting in a dimpled texture on the surface of the skin. Eight out of 10 women have cellulite, according to the Mayo Clinic, with the condition forming primarily on the thighs, hips and backsides.
Muscle and Cellulite
Weight training, which incorporates free weights, weight machines and resistance bands, builds muscle. Gaining more muscle boosts your metabolic rate. A faster metabolism causes your body to burn more calories, tapping into its supply of stored fat. Because cellulite is trapped within connective tissue, resistance training can remodel the tissue and smooth the appearance of cellulite. Losing weight may also relieve the pressure between the upper layer of fat and the connective tissue, thereby reducing cellulite.
Some research indicates that exercise helps improve skin texture by reducing fat in the body's fat storage areas and the cellulite-prone layer. In "Healing Without Medication," Robert S. Rister cites a weight loss study conducted at the University of Maryland in which study participants, who lost about 15 pounds over six months, lost as much fat under the skin of their thighs, where cellulite had formed, as they lost of the fat that the body stores for energy.
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In the midst of a variety of topical and internal treatments that claim to reduce or eliminate cellulite, a healthy diet and regular exercise are the best way to treat cellulite. Pick recommends exercising with weights 20 to 45 minutes three to five times a week to burn excess fat and increase muscle tone While he doesn't specifically mention weight training, Rister recommends walking 45 minutes a day three times a week at a pace that increases your pulse 50 to 60 percent.
Even as conventional and holistic medical professionals encourage women to focus on gaining muscle and reducing overall body fat as a solution to cellulite, they disagree on what causes the body's connective tissue to weaken. The problem may result from genetics, stress, an inactive lifestyle or using hormonal contraceptives. Pick says the connective tissue disorder results from compromised blood and lymph circulation. In "Healing Without Medication," Rister writes that cellulite "is the result of displaced fluid rather than accumulated fat."
- American Council on Exercise: Exercise and Cellulite
- "Healing Without Medication"; Robert Rister; 2003
Cassie M. Chew is a multimedia journalist who covers politics, health care, education policy and technology news for print and online newspapers, magazines and trade press journals. When she's not pursuing a story, Chew enjoys independent film, biographies and books about nutrition and health. She holds a Master of Science in journalism from Northwestern University.