We’ve all been there – looked down at our legs or hips and thought, oh no, how did that happen? The dreaded cellulite of high school locker room bullying, late-night infomercials, and imagined trips to the plastic surgeon!
It doesn’t matter if you work out every day or sit on the couch, if you are on the green smoothie diet or had that extra handful of chips last night, you could still develop cellulite as you age. In fact, over 90% of all women (compared to a mere 10% of men) will develop cellulite over the course of their life.
The battle can sometimes seem hopeless, but, in fact, there are ways to fight back and keep that stubborn cellulite under control!
What is cellulite?
First of all, cellulite is not your fault, any more than your blue eyes or your ten toes.
Cellulite is the result of perfectly normal fat deposits in our bodies pressing against and through the connective fibers of our tissue. Women have more space between these tissue fibers, so places where our bodies store more fat, like legs, hips, and buttocks, tend to show more cellulite.
Moreover, the composition of that fat is impacted by estrogen levels, which is why it is a condition that affects nearly all women. More estrogen means more “leaky” fat and more of those “dimples” on our legs, hips, thighs, stomach, or arms.
Because cellulite occurs naturally in our bodies, it can be extra frustrating as we try to get rid of it. We don’t all have air-brushers at our command, like those Hollywood celebrities whose battle against nature is even harder than ours!
The recent trend of #cellulitesaturday is just one example of ways women are fighting against being ashamed of our own bodies. A recent Cosmopolitan article even got a number famous actresses and models to talk about their battle with the inevitable. We’re all in it together!
So what can I do to get rid of it?
A healthy diet with low alcohol consumption and no smoking is a great first step in any attempt to improve our bodies. And since it is healthy to have some fat in our bodies, any goal of eliminating it entirely is both impossible and very unhealthy! To target cellulite, we just want to target ways to burn fat more effectively and efficiently. If it’s not going to go away, instead let’s think about making it work better!
Being active helps
Recent studies have shown that simply being more active may begin to transform the fat in our bodies from white to brown. It sounds gross, but what this means is that more blood is flowing through the fat, letting it do what it is supposed to do: store biological reserves that our body needs to function and help us burn calories we don’t need. Yes, that’s right, brown, healthy fat helps burn calories!
So to get started burning calories, transforming your fat to a metabolic friend instead of foe, and making it less “leaky” through those tissue fibers, commit to that brisk walk or jog a few days a week.
The CDC recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of aerobic activity per week. That’s only five 30-minute intervals and could include a brisk walk after dinner, a quick jog, a workout with a trusted fitness trainer, or 30 minutes on a bike watching the news at the gym. They used to say that being active “gets the blood flowing,” but that’s exactly what it does: it gets the blood flowing through the fat tissue in our body and getting it (and us) on the path to strength.
Strength training is the way to go
Speaking of strength, strength training is one of the most important and overlooked ways to burn fat and – you guessed it – reduce the appearance of cellulite!
Some people are afraid that lifting any weight will make them look like a body-builder. (I’m sure body-builders wish it were that easy!) Those professionals spend hours a day, almost every day, to look like that! Us regular folks just trying to keep the cellulite away and stay healthy couldn’t possibly lift that much weight that often, so we have nothing to worry about.
In addition to increasing bone density, which reduces our overall risk for injury, strength training increases muscle mass. Muscle mass is essential to increasing metabolism, burning calories, and reducing fat. Unfortunately, muscle decreases as we age, regardless of whether we used to play high school basketball or sang in the choir. And with less muscle mass, our bodies burn fewer calories.
That’s why it becomes harder to keep off weight as we age and keep the cellulite at bay. Increasing muscle mass, on the other hand, increases our body’s ability to burn fat, even at rest!
Four great exercises to help remove cellulite
For each of the exercises below, all you need is your body and a curb or a step. If you have light weights, you can add those in as well by combining a bicep curl or shoulder press to each rep. These 4 easy, bodyweight exercises, combined with those brisk walks and jogs to stay active, will help you start reducing and controlling that stubborn cellulite!
- Place your feet hip-width apart, stand tall with your shoulders level and core stable. Make sure you are standing with more of your weight on your heels than on your toes.
- Keeping your shoulders and chin up (don’t bend forward), lower your hips backward and towards the floor. At the bottom, it should look and feel like you are about to sit in a chair. You should not feel like you are going to fall forward!
- Return to standing.
- Squat 15 times. Rest for 30-60 seconds and repeat.
Do 2 sets to start and aim for 3 sets as you get stronger.
** Advanced Modifications **
For increased metabolic impact, increase the speed of your sets.
2. Uneven Squats
- Place your Right foot on a step.
- Square your feet hip-width apart, stand tall with your shoulders level and core stable.
- Proceed with 15 squats.
- Pause for 30-60 seconds and repeat with your left foot on the step.
Start with 2 sets of each side (right and left) and add a 3rd set when you feel strong enough.
** Advanced Modifications **
As you return to standing, lift the knee that is on the step to your chest. Exhale strongly to engage your abs!
If you are feeling extra-strong, lift the knee on the floor to your chest!
3. Squat Jump
- Start facing the step with feet hip-width apart and shoulders high.
- Jump onto the step, keeping knees soft (to act like shock-absorbers).
- Jump back to the floor.
2 sets of 15 jumps; aim to increase to 3 sets
** Advanced Modifications **
If you don’t want to or can not jump, step up and down briskly.
4. Runner’s Start-up
- Stretch your left leg back, bend your right knee, and reach down until your fingertips touch the floor on either side of your right toes (channel your inner Usain Bolt!).
- With your abs tight and chin up, push through your right heel and keep your back straight as you stand and bring your left knee up to your chest. Don’t let your toe touch on the way through!
- Return to a long lunge position.
- After 15 Start-ups, pause for 30-60 seconds and repeat with your right leg behind you.
Begin with 2 sets of each leg and add a 3rd set when you are ready.