How Foam Rolling Can Actually Help Reduce Cellulite

But there's a catch.

As a society, we are obsessed with cellulite. For such a small imperfection, it causes quite a stir. But why are we so concerned about these bumpy, dimply lumps on our thighs… and butts and stomachs and sometimes arms? Well, because we ALL have them.
Seriously though, 90 percent of adult women confess to dealing with the annoying condition—so if you’ve ever looked in the mirror and bemoaned the sight of dimples on the backs of your thighs, you’re not alone.
The fact that cellulite is so commonplace explains why there are so many “cures” and treatments for the condition. At your local Sephora, you’ll likely find an aisle of caffeine-filled creams meant to temporarily improve the look of cellulite; if you’ve got a little more cash to spend, you might consider using a laser or electrotherapeutic treatment to break up the fat cells. And if you’d rather go all-natural, you can try a Power Plate fitness class (it’s a cellulite-blasting-sweat-inducing workout) or the Ayurvedic practice of dry brushing, which is often recommended to help improve lymphatic drainage and minimise the appearance of cellulite.
And then, of course, there’s foam rolling. Yes—that torturous activity that Kayla Itsines swears by to keep muscles lean and loose—has been said to help prevent, treat, and even disappear cellulite.

foam roller cellulite
Image: iStock

Foam rolling is a form of myofascial release—basically, it’s like giving your muscles a little massage. By applying pressure to sore muscles and tendons, foam rolling encourages knots and tense spots to release and relax. Rolling also encourages enhanced blood flow and lymphatic drainage—by sending fresh blood to the area that’s getting pressure, foam rolling reduces inflammation and swelling. This encourages the body to recover more quickly and feel better.

Proponents of the practice say that the same things that make foam rolling great for muscles—enhanced blood flow and increased lymphatic drainage—help reduce the appearance of cellulite. Because cellulite is caused by pockets of body fat that balloon up to the surface of the fascia, right below the dermis, the idea is that increasing circulation to the area strengthens fascia and prevents fat cells from pushing through to cause more dimpling.
But is there any proof, one way or another, that foam rolling works? Yes!
cellulite workouts
Image: iStock

One study published in the Dermatology Research and Practice Journal examined the effects of “lymphatic massage” (essentially the same technique as foam rolling) on patients with cellulite on the stomach, thighs, and glutes. Body circumference measurements were taken before and after the study, and after two weeks the average participant lost 1.7 centimeters. Pretty solid results, right? Here’s the kicker—these patients enjoyed four hours of lymphatic massage a day. So unless you’re spending a third of your waking hours on the foam roller, don’t expect to see such positive results so quickly.
Here’s the thing—foam rolling is great for your body. It’s incredible for your muscles, and it’s great for improving blood flow and encouraging lymphatic drainage. But if you’re relying on your foam roller to give you cellulite-free Kayla legs, you might want to manage your expectations.
Check out which treatments actually work to get rid of cellulite here.

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