I am frequently asked, “Will exercise tighten my loose skin?” The scenario is usually that of someone who has lost weight with resultant skin laxity and who hopes that exercise will tighten the loose skin that has resulted. Is there any truth to this hope that so many have?
The answer is, “Not to any significant degree.” Skin is loose because the amount of skin relative to the surface it covers is out of balance in favor of the skin. There is simply more skin than the underlying tissue requires. How can one correct this imbalance? Either by increasing the amount of underlying tissue, increasing the skin elasticity, or decreasing the amount of skin. Let’s look at these options, one by one.
– How can one increase the amount of underlying tissue? Say that one has loose, saggy arms. Can you increase the amount of muscle to compensate? Weight lifting will increase muscle mass, but only to a degree. Most people have so much loose skin that any increase in muscle has a minimal beneficial effect. Absent the use of steroids, this is unlikely to be of significant benefit. If one gained weight, the increase in body fat would certainly fill out the loose skin, but this is not the approach that most patients would prefer.
– How about an increase in skin elasticity? There is not an effective way to accomplish this to any significant degree. Various creams may give a slight improvement, but nothing to write home about.
– How about decreasing the amount of excess skin? The tried and true and most effective way involves surgically excising the skin and sewing the edges back together. This will leave some degree of scarring that can be minimized by proper surgical technique and proper aftercare with the use of silicone tape. The non-surgical alternatives involves such modalities as Ulthera and Thermage that are treatments giving marginal, at best, improvement.
So there you have it! Should you have further questions, please contact my office.
George Sanders, M.D.