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Cellulite: What is it and How to combat it

The dreaded 9 letter word (not that I know of many other dreaded 9 letter words) – Cellulite. It’s funny how just 1 simple word can get the same reaction from people, and it usually isn’t a pleasant reaction!

Before we break down the condition, let’s take a look at the definition to gain a general understanding of what beast we are dealing with today.

Cellulite is described as a condition caused by uneven fat and fibrous tissue deposits beneath the surface, resulting in dimpled skin.

Golds Gym Singapore Understanding Cellulite 2.png

The graphic shows how the outer layers (hypodermis or subcutaneous fat layer) of the skin are unique from other layers because of the fat “lobes” that are organized into chambers surrounded by strands of connective tissue. The example on the left shows how when there is cellulite present, the fat lobes push the outer layer of the skin and the connective tissues pull on the skin to create distortion and an unevenness in the skin.

A weakening of the connective tissue located just beneath the skin can also result in cellulite. Although cellulite has been known to occur in men, it is much more typical in women.

Why are women affected more than men by cellulite?

Because the fat structures of men and women do not react to fat increase in the same way. For women, the hypodermis is partitioned vertically by the septa (mesh or net-like fibrous connective tissue forming a network of compartments). The subcutaneous fat cells are pushed upwards, and the septa are pushed downwards. As a result, the fat cells are squeezed into small bulges that translate into the lumps and 'orange peel' look of the skin. Men's fibrous septa is structured in oblique compartments. When the layer of fat increases there is no deformation.

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Types of Cellulite

Golds Gym Singapore soft cellulite.jpgType 1: Soft Cellulite
This type of cellulite gives the skin an undulating appearance and, as its name implies, it is soft to the touch. Soft cellulite is mostly present in areas where there is a build up of fat, such as upper arms and legs, and is often accompanied by varicose veins or spider veins; as you walk or move, soft cellulite will also move. It tends to increase with age or weight gain, and it's aggravated by lack of muscle tone. In general, improved circulation and skin tone will help, as will weight loss.

Golds Gym Singapore Hard Cellulite.jpgType 2: Hard Cellulite
Also known as solid cellulite, this type is more common in younger women, and is mostly found around the hips and upper thighs. It is usually one of the first outward signs of cellulite. The skin is tight and grainy or dimpled like orange peel, and the appearance doesn't alter when walking or moving; the skin seems to be firmly attached to the muscle. 




Quick Truths and Myths about cellulite

Myth 1: Only people who are over-weight will get cellulite.
Truth 1: Cellulite can happen to men and women of all shapes and sizes!

Remember, cellulite happens when fat and fibrous tissue deposits beneath the surface are uneven. This means as long as you have fat in your body, you stand a chance of having cellulite! However, being overweight does make the appearance of cellulite more noticeable. In essence, the more at you have underneath your skin, the more it's likely to put stress on your connective tissue and bulge out of its weak spots. 

Therefore, cellulite can happen to anyone!

Myth 2: Only women get cellulite.
Truth 2: Men can also get cellulite, though women are more prone to the condition. 

About 95% of women will experience cellulite, compared to only 10% of men. 

Myth 3: Cellulite happens when you don’t take care of your body.
Truth 3: Cellulite can be genetic. 

Yup, if your mom or grandmother had cellulite, you are likely to have the gene too. However, if you take care of yourself – do plenty of exercise, have a good diet and have a good weight, you can minimize or delay the effects of cellulite.

Myth 4: Topical creams, when applied in a circular motion, can help to reduce the appearance of cellulite.
Truth 4: Although numerous topical treatments and involuntary manipulative techniques may seem enticing, no research supports their long-term effectiveness.

Aminophylline, caffeine and theophyilline are members of a group of biochemicals known as methyxanthines present in many cellulite creams. These biological agents can enhance the body’s ability to breakdown stored fat, a process called lypolysis. However, when applied topically to the skin, an initial challenge of any cream is that it must be able to penetrate the skin and dermis and reach the target fat tissue before being absorbed by the tissue. Yet, to be effective, these thigh creams would have to have a sufficient concentration (in the subcutaneous fat layer) for an ample length of time, which partially explains their lack of consequential cellulite removal. However, studies have shown a small reduction in thigh girth when using these creams, yet not a substantial change in cellulite.

Exercises to Combat Cellulite
Several studies note that female athletes, who generally have a lower percent body fat regularly have less cellulite. So, a caloric-restricted diet plan to help reduce some of the underlying body fat should be implemented. Aerobic exercise at least 3 to 5 times a week for at least 20 to 60 minutes will help create a satisfactory caloric deficit. Choose a mode of exercise that you enjoy such as walking, jogging, aerobic dance, elliptical training, rowing, cycling, swimming or stair stepping. If available, alternate modes of aerobic exercise to regularly give your body some variety. Perhaps most essential to your exercise agenda is your resistance exercise program. The subcutaneous fat rests on top of muscle, and if the muscle is weak and flaccid, this can contribute to the ‘bumpy’ effect of cellulite. Although there isn’t one best system of sets and repetitions to firm all of your leg muscles, regularly include the following exercises in your resistance training program.

Squats and leg press for the buttocks and thigh muscles.
All types of lunges for the thighs and buttocks.
Hip adduction exercises for the inner thighs.
Hip abduction exercises for the outer thighs.
Leg curls for the back of the thighs.