When scientists say there's "no such thing" as cellulite, they mean that cellulite is not a distinct type of body tissue, but it is ordinary fat. Yet for nearly nine out of 10 women, that unwanted dimpling on the hips and thighs is undeniably real.
How it got there: Fibrous cords connect the skin to the underlying muscle. When the fat layer that lies between the skin and the muscle is too thick, the cords are pulled tight and fat cells bulge out between them, causing that "cottage cheese" look. And cellulite gets worse with age…
- The typical woman loses muscle mass at an average rate of about five pounds per decade from ages 20 to 50. and perhaps more rapidly after menopause.
- As muscle mass decreases, metabolism slows, the body burns fewer calories and the ratio of fat to muscle rises.
- Supporting connective tissues (such as collagen) break down and lose elasticity, making cellulite more pronounced
What doesn't help: A swarm of creams, wraps, massage techniques and mechanical devices purport to eliminate cellulite, typically by "melting away fat." None addresses the underlying physiological causes. Even dieting can backfire if you overdo it, because your body may break down muscle as well as fat to get the energy that it needs, raising your fat-to-muscle ratio.
What does help: Strength training, which rebuilds muscle and burns calories. It also boosts metabolism.
Best: Three times a week, do the following exercises. The routine takes about 20 minutes.*
You need only three simple kinds of equipment. Go to a gym or buy your own equipment
*Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program at a sporting-goods store or on-line (try www. spriproducts.com). Within four to six weeks, you should see a noticeable reduction in cellulite.
A medicine ball is a weighted ball about six to eight inches in diameter. Holding one while doing the following two moves adds extra weight that makes your lower body work harder-and as a bonus, tones the upper body, too. To start, choose a ball with which you can do eight to 12 repetitions per side. Once you work your way up to 15 reps, switch to a ball about one to two pounds heavier. Typically, a woman starts with a two-to four-pound ball and works up to six, eight or 10 pounds.
Cost: About $20 to $40 per ball.
Target zones: Front and back of thighs... buttocks.
- Lunge. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding ball between hands at waist level, about six to eight inches in front of you. Bend elbows to bring ball up to chest level...at the same time, with right foot, lunge forward about two to three feet, bending right knee to a 90-degree angle so that it is directly above foot. Step out far enough so that your knee does not move past your ankle (left leg will be slightly bent, Heb heel up). Hold lunge posi tion for three seconds, keeping back straight...then push off with right foot and return to standing, bringing ball back down. Do 10 to 15 reps, then repeat on left. (Avoid this exercise if you have knee problems.)
- Knee lift. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding ball between hands at waist level.
Step right foot back about two to two-and-a-half feet, keeping right leg straight and bending left knee slightly. Elbows straight, raise ball in front of you to head height.
Bring right knee forward and up as high as you can... bend elbows and bring ball down to touch knee...then step back again with right foot as you straighten arms and raise ball to head height. Do 10 to 15 reps, then repeat on left.
Resistance tubes are elastic tubes about four feet long with handles on each end. They vary in thickness-start with a tube with which you can do eight to 12 reps per side. When you can do 15 reps, switch to a thicker tube.
Cost: About $5 to $15 per tube.
Target zones: Inner and outer thighs.
- Hip adduction. Attach one handle to a secure anchor (such as around a bed leg). Loop other handle securely around your right foot (push past toes as far as possible so it doesn't fly off).
Sit on floor, with knees straight and legs spread, so tube is straight out to the right of your right foot. With hands on floor behind you, use inner thigh muscles to slide right leg in to meet left leg. Hold three seconds, then slowly slide right leg back out to spread-leg position. Do 10 to 15 reps, then repeat with left leg.
- Hip abduction. Attach one handle to a secure anchor, and loop other handle around right foot (as in the previous exercise).
Sit on floor, with knees straight and legs together, so tube is straight out to the left of your right foot, crossing over left ankle. With your hands on the floor behind you, use outer thigh muscles to slide right leg out to the right until legs are spread as much as possible. Hold three seconds, then slowly slide right leg back to meet left leg. Do 10 to 15 reps, then repeat with left leg.
To start, use a pair of dumbbells (hand weights) with which you can do eight to 12 reps. When you are able to do 15 reps, switch to weights two to three pounds heavier. Typically a woman starts with five-pound weights, building up to as much as 15 pounds.
Cost: About $10 to $30 per pair.
Target zones: Front and back of thighs... buttocks.
- Squat. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, one weight in each hand, arms down at sides. Keeping torso erect and 7 head in line with spine, bend knees (as if sitting on a chair) until thighs are nearly parallel to floor. Do not allow knees to move forward past toes. Hold for three seconds, then return to standing, Do 10 to 15 reps.
- Step-Up. Stand at bottom of a stairway, facing steps, one weight in each hand, arms down at sides. If you have balance problems, hold a weight in one hand and hold onto banister with the other hand.)
Place entire left foot flat on first step, then rise until you are standing on the stair. Step back down, again moving left foot first. Do 10 to 15 reps, then repeat on the right side.