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CindySays: Strength training is best option against cellulite

By Cindy Boggs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Cindy,

I am female, age 47, and am a runner. Much of my exercise focus has been to try to get rid of cellulite around my thighs and hips. Unfortunately, I am losing and cellulite is winning. Any advice for this ugly problem? -- Janet

Dear Janet,

How we all wish the word "cellulite" was never coined. It conjures up images of cottage cheese and orange peel and no matter how it is described, it is far from appealing.

It's a dimpled, bumpy appearance of the skin usually found on the hips, thighs or buttocks. Some consider cellulite a dreaded disease, resulting in lots of products claiming to eliminate this visible fat. Granted, nobody wants this clumped-up fat clinging to their hindquarters, but it's not a disease requiring immediate attention or medication.

How did it get there?

For females, having a small amount of cellulite is usually a normal variation in the way our fat is distributed and stored in our bodies. Men are rarely troubled by it because they carry their excess fat in their abdomen. This is due to hormonal differences between men and women. However, women who eat a high-fat, low-fiber diet, eat more calories than they expend and are inactive will be likely to continue to produce cellulite on their body.

Muscle vs. fat

Reducing calories and concentrating on aerobic exercise will not give you the results you are hoping for. In fact, cardio exercise alone may actually feed off of muscle tissue, especially if it's not supported by the adequate protein, carbohydrates and essential fats. If that seems a little unbelievable, take a look at your fellow runners. You will see those who are thin, yet still have dimply thighs. It is about body composition. Strength training, however, can reduce cellulite accumulation.

It's not all about fat

If you're not building muscle mass, you're losing it at a rate of about 5 pounds every decade. Wayne Westcott, leading strength training researcher and expert on body composition, explains, "You have this shrinking foundation under this growing fat layer, and eventually the fat clumps. It's not just a matter of having too much fat. It's a combination of too much fat and too little muscle."

He adds that dieting in the absence of strength training can actually promote the appearance of cellulite by causing muscle loss. He strongly believes that lifting weights to build and to maintain muscle is key.

Miracle cream?

Back to the products that promise to smooth out all those dimples and rid the world of cellulite. Supplements, creams, lotions, pills, wraps and more continue to prey on consumers desperate for a quick fix. Unfortunately, these products don't live up to their claims. If even one did, there would be no reason to market another. Instead of investing money in a jar of false hope, consider this:

  • Heredity plays a part -- if your mother has cellulite, you've probably inherited her loosely woven connective tissue, which weakens with age and leads to bunched-up fat cells.
  • An exercise program that includes strength training gives you your best shot at warding off cellulite accumulation.
  • The amount of calories you consume determines whether you will gain or lose weight.
  • A diet high in lean protein along with weight training helps you preserve and build muscle mass.
  • Adding or substituting muscle-building strength training to your workouts will give you your best shot at a cellulite-free physique. Hitting the weights at least twice a week can make your body as strong and smooth as possible.

    Cindy Boggs, wellness presenter and author, is an ACE-certified instructor/trainer. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to cindysays@aol.com. Look for her award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World" on her website, www.cindysays.com.


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