Fitness Q&A by Richard Weil
Cellulite is caused by irregular patterns of connective tissue beneath the skin, and as the adipose (fatty) tissue, which forms in compartments of little honeycombs, pushes into the skin, it causes the dimpling of cellulite. It has been shown that people who have cellulite have different patterns of connective tissue than people who don't, and men tend to have this pattern much less than women. Cellulite is not directly a function of excess weight, but a genetic difference in the way adipose tissue and connective tissue form. In fact, cellulite affects people whether they are overweight or not. Biochemically, cellulite does not behave any differently than other fat, and there is no health risk from cellulite (some evidence even suggests that lower extremity fat is protective against chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease).
As for getting rid of cellulite, weight loss and exercise can have some effect since the muscle and skin tighten up, but the results vary from person to person. Your results depend on how hard and consistently you train, your age, the amount of collagen and elastin in your skin, and most importantly, genetics. I recommend aerobic exercise 3-5 times per week for 30-40 minutes, resistance exercise 2-3 times per week, and I suggest working the muscles extra hard where cellulite tends to accumulate, even though it isn't possible to "spot reduce." Exercises like side leg raises, low cable pulley work (hips and glutes), squats, lunges, and stair climbing or bench stepping all work the troublesome areas. And even if this prescription doesn't get rid of all your cellulite, it will help some, and it sure will make you strong and fit.
Thank you for your question.
Last Editorial Review: 11/16/2006