A warning: leg exercises that reduce cellulite do not exist
First off, if you are looking for a specific exercise to remove cellulite from a specific area of your legs, for example your inner thighs, back of thighs etc, let me warn you that you are looking for something that does not exist: spot fat/cellulite reduction with exercise is physiologically impossible, so all these exercises you see on the internet are utter BS. Simple as that.
So if you are looking for that amazing squat or other leg exercise that will get rid of your cellulite, you can leave this website and visit one of the hundreds of websites that peddle this "advice". There are probably thousands of photos, videos and articles describing enough "cellulite-busting" leg exercises to waste your time and energy for years without seeing any results. On the other hand, if you are looking for intelligent, science-based advice on how to use different TYPES OF WHOLE BODY EXERCISE to reduce cellulite (as opposed to different LEG EXERCISES), please read on!
Serious discussion about whole body exercise and cellulite
There are two factors that determine if a type of exercise is effective against cellulite:
- The ability of exercise to reduce cellulite fat, either by direct calorie burning during exercise or by stimulating long-term metabolic changes that result in calorie burning throughout the day
- The ability of exercise to provide mechanical stimulation to fibroblasts (collagen and elastin-producing cells), adipocytes (fat cells), blood vessels and lymph vessels
Burning calories during and after exercise
Burning loads of calories during exercise is a good thing, but a better thing is to stimulate your endocrine system into burning more fuel throughout the day, thereby reducing more cellulite fat deposits. It has been known for several years now that intensive exercise (e.g. fast running) has a more pronounced effect on the endocrine system, whilst light exercise (e.g. slow walking) has a minimal effect on the metabolism.
And it is very easy to assess how fast you burn calories and how much the exercise impacts your metabolism: the more your heart rate and breathing rate increase, the more calories you burn. This is a basic physiological principle: your lungs and heart pump air and blood faster because you are burning fuel (calories) fast, therefore you need to supply your muscles with more fresh oxygen and fuel to burn and to remove the metabolic by-products. Pretty simply, high intensity training beats low intensity exercise hands down: it burns calories faster during exercise, in addition to significantly boosting metabolism after exercise.
Boosting skin firmness and circulation
A type of exercise that provides intense mechanical stimulation to your fat cells, collagen cells and blood/lymph vessel cells will lead to reduced fat cell number, more firmness and improved circulation and lymphatic drainage, thereby further improving the appearance of cellulite. Mechanical stimulation is usually more intense during high intensity training, but not always, as we will see below.
The most effective types of exercise against cellulite
According to the two factors mentioned above, we can classify cellulite exercises as follows:
Zero effect on cellulite
The specific leg exercises we mentioned at the beginning of this article. You can do as many squats as you want, but these will not have a direct effect on cellulite on your bum and things. Similarly you can do hundreds of inner thigh exercises, but these will not affect your inner thigh fat or cellulite in the least. You will indeed have tighter muscle UNDER YOUR CELLULITE, but cellulite and local fat will still be there. Simple as that
Little or no effect on cellulite
Pilates, Yoga, slow elliptical training, slow cycling and slow swimming burn very few calories and provide very little mechanical stimulation, so they will have minimal effect on cellulite. Medium pace walking provides some mechanical stimulation and increased calorie burning, so it is a bit better than Pilates and Yoga.
Moderate cellulite reduction
Fast walking, uphill walking and fast uphill walking (hiking) provide more intense mechanical stimulation and more calorie burning so they are more efficient at reducing cellulite. Slow running provides even more mechanical stimulation and burns even more fuel than fast walking, so it tops the list of relatively inefficient cellulite-reducing types of exercise. Fast "elliptical" training and fast cycling can also burn a lot of calories but provide little mechanical stimulation, so they can be categorised as moderate cellulite reducers. Fast swimming burns a lot of calories and provides moderate mechanical stimulation (via the micromassage effect that agitated water exerts on the skin), so it is also categorised as a moderate cellulite reduction and prevention exercise
Enhanced cellulite reduction exercise
Moderate speed running burns quite a few calories and provides the tissues with much needed mechanical stimulation, so it provides enhanced cellulite reduction. Circuit training provides moderate mechanical stimulation and burns calories at a fast rate, so it has enhanced cellulite reduction potential. High impact, high energy aerobics classes provide both good mechanical stimulation and calorie burning, leading to enhanced cellulite reduction. Spinning classes provide moderate mechanical stimulation but burn calories very fast, so they offer enhanced cellulite reduction
Exercise for intensive cellulite reduction
Doing squats and lunges on the vibration platform (power plate) provides very intense mechanical stimulation and can help you burn quite a few calories, if you do not rest much between sets. If this condition is met, vibration platform training can be very efficient in cellulite reduction. Interval swimming (intermittent swimming sprints) provides good mechanical stimulation and enhanced calorie burning, so it is also a great anti-cellulite exercise.
Fast running provides intense mechanical stimulation and intense calorie burning, so it is also one of the best cellulite reduction methods. Interval running (i.e. intermittent running sprints) burns calories really fast and provides intense mechanical stimulation, therefore it is by far the best type of cellulite reduction exercise.
Intensive sports such as basketball, football, handball, netball, water polo etc. are in effect interval training sports and are also ideal for cellulite reduction and prevention.
Real spot cellulite reduction: only possible with exercise and cellulite creams / treatments
We mentioned above that specific exercises cannot be used to reduce fat or cellulite from a specific part of the body (spot fat reduction / spot cellulite reduction). However, if exercise is combined with a good cellulite treatment or a good, highly concentrated cream, then it's effects can indeed be focused on one area. If the exercise takes place and/or the anti-cellulite cream applied immediately before or after exercise, then the results are more pronounced. This is because during exercise fat cells release fat due to the effect of increased adrenaline and noradrenaline production. Good cellulite treatment or creams tend to favour the release of fat from fat cells too, but only locally, where the treatment / cream is applied. So by combining the two, an increased amount of fat will be released from the cellulite affected area, in relation to other body areas or in relation to just applying the treatment / cream without exercise.
Indeed this is the best way to reduce cellulite and localised fat deposits and the best advice I can give to anyone who wants to use exercise to reduce her cellulite: receive a strong cellulite treatment and apply a concentrated cellulite cream just before or just after a high intensity exercise session, involving fast or interval running / swimming / cycling etc.
Please note that this combination of exercise with treatments and creams works only with the more intensive types of exercise, such as fast running, interval running, spinning, circuit training, intense sports and high impact aerobics, because low intensity training such Pilates, Yoga, walking and slow running do not stimulate much adrenaline / noradrenaline release.
This is not to say that without exercise a good cream or a treatment will not "work". They will still work, but the treatment sessions and/or cream applications that are combined with high intensity training will be much more effective than the same treatment sessions / cream applications while being sedentary. And of course, do not forget that to achieve maximum results you must combine exercise + treatment + cream with healthy eating (think veg, salads, fish, chicken, lean meat, and berry fruits and avoid sugary snacks, fatty/oily/fried food and carbs).
(Safety note: always check with your doctor if you are unsure about your ability to safely perform vigorous exercise)
Appendix: Why spot fat/cellulite reduction does not work
Looking for exercises to reduce cellulite on a specific part of your body like your butt, thighs or stomach Then stop looking - because those exercises do not exist. Forget what the tabloid newspaper, glossy magazine, blog or your personal trainer says. Very simply, it is physiologically impossible to reduce fat from a specific part of the body (including cellulite fat), with exercise alone. This is because fat tissue (from where fat is released during exercise) is completely separated from muscle tissue (where fat burning occurs during exercise). Fat from your cellulite fat cells (adipocytes) in the buttocks cannot diffuse through several layers of tissues and reach the adjacent buttock muscles. This is not how the body works.
- For example, when your butt muscles burn fuel during exercise, that fat is provided by the arteries and can originate from anywhere in the body, including your fat deposits in your breast, face, stomach etc. This means that your butt may well burn stomach fat or arms fat. It only burns a tiny amount of "booty fat".
- Vice versa, when fat is removed from your fat cells during exercise, it is taken up by your capillaries and veins and ends up in the general circulation and muscles and organs throughout the body, where it can be oxidised (burned) for energy. This means that fat released from your butt fat cells during exercise may well be burned in your arms or liver. Only a small amount of fat released by your butt fat cells during exercise will be burned in your gluteus maximus, your butt muscle.
- So, to put it in a nutshell, fat burned in your butt muscles is only remotely connected to fat released by your butt fat tissue. And this applies to all other body areas. So you cannot burn fat on one area by exercising the muscle underneath that area.
This practically means that you can do hundreds of squats and lunges every day and exercise your butt muscles to exhaustion, yet only a limited amount of fat burned in those muscles will have originated from your cellulite fat cells in the buttocks. You could easily be burning fat originating from your breasts or face - the least desirable areas for fat reduction. However ironical this sounds, you know that it is true. Squats, lunges and hip extensions do tone the muscles underneath the cellulite but they do not reduce cellulite itself. Similarly, performing hundreds of sit ups or abdominal crunches per day will not do anything to reduce belly fat or belly cellulite. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Those exercises you see on YouTube are only good for advertising commission by those who upload them.
Of course, regular exercise is indispensable for cellulite reduction and prevention throughout the body, but you cannot focus it on a specific area to help reduce cellulite in that area. Your body decides where to lose fat and cellulite, according to your lifestyle, genetic inheritance and hormones. Although the above mentioned biological principle behind the inability of exercise to offer spot cellulite reduction is very simple, still two different research groups tried to disprove it, and in both cases the result was the same: spot fat reduction and spot cellulite reduction do not exist. So my advice is to stop looking for the best specific "exercises for local cellulite reduction" (there are thousands of internet and printed press articles with such misinformation) and focus on the advice above about the "best type of exercise for cellulite reduction" overall.