You Can’t Exercise Skin

By Valerie J. Ablaza

At first it sounds ridiculous. Who thinks of exercising skin? Well, don’t laugh. There are many people among us who believe, or at least hope, that this exact concept can be a reality. There is an automatic assumption that working out enough is all that is necessary to get in shape, even when the biggest problem is loose skin. If it were only that easy!

Regular weight lifting absolutely builds muscle mass and can improve body contours, while aerobic activity burns calories, which then leads to weight loss. But unfortunately there are no activities that can be done in the gym to cause skin shrinkage or tightening to any significant degree. I often hear women complaining about loose abdominal skin after pregnancy that doesn’t improve with even the most intense workouts. Women and men who develop skin laxity after losing a lot of weight feel the same disappointment when it comes to expecting exercise to correct loose skin.

Of course, skin contraction can occur soon after pregnancies and weight loss in younger people and in “genetically blessed” individuals, but I’m talking about the loose, hanging skin that persists long after the baby was born or the weight was lost. That skin will not respond to any type of workout. The elastic fibers in the skin have been over-stretched. Many of these people end up in a plastic surgeon’s office as a “last resort.”

Don’t get me wrong: For the population as a whole, weight training and aerobic exercise is always better than inactivity. Sometimes, improving muscle mass and definition can lead to slight differences in skin tone, but there is no magical way to achieve anything other than minor contour changes without real surgery. Wouldn’t it be nice if a magic wand could be waved over the body and cause a “shrink-wrap” effect?

Some laser companies promise that skin can be tightened with use of their “magic wand”, whether it’s surface skin treatment or liposuction, but the resulting difference in skin tightness is usually insignificant. And don’t believe that application of any skin cream leads to firmer skin, no matter how much or how often it is used. The only way to make loose skin tighter with substantial contour improvement is to surgically remove the skin excess. This procedure necessarily results in seams, otherwise known as scars. Plastic surgeons become tailors for the human body.

In my experience, people will always tolerate a scar for a significantly better shape or contour. It’s a trade-off that patients make with a plastic surgeon. Skin will be tightened and breasts will be lifted in exchange for some type of scar and it will always be the shortest and smallest scar that will get the job done. Concealing a scar beneath clothing or swimwear is always the goal. Scars can also be “hidden” in naturally occurring skin lines and creases if necessary.

So it’s time to stop beating yourself up over not being able to tighten your skin with exercise, and certainly don’t throw in the towel. You’re not alone and there is light at the end of the tunnel. You may be able to get your dream body, just not in the way you were originally thinking.