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Can You Tighten Loose Skin With Exercise? Get The Facts On Sagging Skin Solutions

Can You Tighten Loose Skin With Exercise? Get The Facts On Sagging Skin

Loose or sagging skin is a common result after pregnancy or major weight loss. Some ‘experts’ even claim that you can “pull the skin to the muscle” through exercise – so is this really possible? We asked Michele Olson, Ph.D., principal researcher at the Auburn University Montgomery Kinesiology Laboratory, to give us the scientific scoop on whether or not you really can tighten up your body’s largest organ with a workout regimen.

What Causes Loose Skin?

First off, let’s talk about the cause of loose or sagging skin, and what’s really happening to your body. “The more skin is stretched (say from a fast growth rate like a woman’s abdomen when she is pregnant or by having gained excess weight) the more difficult it is for the skin to retract and lay flat,” Olson says. “Think about a rubber band — when it’s stretched and stressed over time some of its strands fray preventing the rubber band from being able to fully shrink back to it’s original size,” she explains. And, while sudden or rapid weight gain can cause the skin to sag, even if you’ve never been overweight, skin naturally looses its elasticity tautness and over time, Olson says, so aging can also be a casual factor.

Can Exercise Tighten Loose Skin?

Forget what you’ve heard about any specific exercise method or program being able to “pull the muscle to the skin” – it’s just not possible. “It would be nice, but exercise cannot actually cause the skin to pull into the muscle and shrink or tighten up,” Olson says. Your skin does actually have muscles, but these muscles function to produce goose bumps when it’s cold and cannot do anything to cause permanent skin tightening, she explains.

Is There Anything You Can Do Tighten Loose Skin?

Don’t fret — there are a few things you can do to help reduce the appearance of sagging skin. For starters, don’t give up on exercise, and make sure you’ve got a balance program that includes both strength and cardio training, as both benefit your skin. “Weight lifting can develop the shape of your muscles and fill out into the skin from the underside, helping the skin appear tighter because a more developed muscle balloons out into the skin, much like what happens to a flat, saggy inner tube: when being filled up with air, the deflated, saggy inner tube smoothes out and firms up,” says Olson.

RELATED: Does working out on an empty stomach burn more fat?

And cardio exercise helps increase the delivery of fresh oxygen to all of your organs – including your skin – helping to improve the health of your skin, which can, in turn, improve its appearance. Finally, nourish your skin from the inside out with a healthy diet. Olson says that vitamins C, E and the mineral zinc can help the skin from sagging prematurely, and you can get these nutrients from good food sources. She recommends loading up on Vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits and leafy greens and getting plenty of vitamin E from heart healthy foods like almonds, tomatoes and avocados. And zinc, which helps maintain the skin’s collagen (responsible for making the skin both firmer and more elastic), is readily provided by 3 to 4 oz. low-fat meat (turkey is the best), says Olson.

RELATED: Burn fat and build muscle with these double duty workouts

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26 comments… add one

  • Karen T July 9, 2018, 1:07 pm

    I’m 62 and have been working out for what seems like my entire adult life. I’ve noticed sagging and creepiness and yes…my stomach skin too. I wish I could change it and have my youthful skin back. I remind myself I have two beautiful children and am still a very fit and active woman whose skin is aging naturally and probably helped along by sun damage! I try to be grateful I am still alive and getting older and can still exercise! We need to stop beating ourselves up!

    Reply
  • Patricia Parry May 3, 2018, 4:43 pm

    Oh so glad I’ve found this site – women who say how it is!
    This may be a tall (short) question – just under 5ft but I need honesty.
    I am 74 yrs old. The face last year not too bad, this year I look
    Like my mum who died at 80😳
    Also I’ve lost some weight, about 8 lbs and the consequence is
    My boobs are hanging and so is the rest of what was my stomach.
    Truthfully ladies, are there any remedies, exercises not surgery that
    can put me back together. Thankfully I’ve no medical probs and
    am reasonably agile/fit for my age.

    Reply
  • Mary April 22, 2018, 5:50 pm

    I lost 40 lbs in about 5 months. I am disabled and cannot do some of the exercises due to my back and a shoulder replacement. I’ve tried everything. I refuse to have surgery to pull it up. I guess it’s no shorts for me. It’s my legs that are the worst. I do give up.

    Reply
  • Lynn A Hurley April 22, 2018, 2:50 pm

    I agree!! These medical people need too start telling the truth…stop sugar coating things…tell us if anything really works and if so…what?!

    Reply
  • Michelle October 30, 2017, 7:04 pm

    I think the idea in this regard is that when you “fill with muscle” you have toned, shaped legs/arms, etc – so its not the same as filling with fat.
    I have a similar problem (which is why I’m reading this thread) – my arms look great, they toned up and filled out great – but my legs are still saggy. for the past year, I run a minimum 2 miles a day, work out with weights and do HIIT – my legs have become much more muscular but i still have crepey skin above my knees. Frustrates the heck out of me. I am not going to give up though because I love the way the exercise makes me feel and I do look better than before, but after reading this I’m thinking I have to visit the doctor for some “assistance”

    Reply
  • Debby August 23, 2017, 5:56 am

    Hi Jessica,

    I am an athlete. I run, I do(HIIT),weight train. I have been sick since january 2017. I was very toned and tight. I am just starting to see my arms saggy(hanging down). I am upset needless to say about this. Did I lose my muscle? Is that why my arms are saggy and when I am well enough to workout will I be able to tighten these ugly, saggy arms that I worked so hard to get? I am a 56 year old female. However when I am able to workout I kick butt. I am tiny. a little over 5 feet and 98 pounds.

    Jessica when you get a chance can you reply to this message please?

    Thank you
    Debby

    Reply
  • Liz Rains February 25, 2017, 12:07 pm

    I have flabby arms and jiggly thighs for years! I’m 57. I’ve just started the 30 day challenge with #Daily Burn, hoping it will help tone the apparantly untoneable! I’m not going to give up, by the way! After reading some of the responses here I’ve decided to once again employ the childlike sentiment of my, then 2 year old granddaughter. I had patted her sweet little belly and she suddenly burst out in song! It was a short little diddy and it went like this, “I love my fat fat belly, my fat, fat belly, my fat, fat belly! I love my fat, fat belly! All the while patting her adorable belly! Turning from this computer, I will once again, jiggle my thighs and wiggle my arms and sing joyfully, “I love my jiggly, jiggly thighs, my wiggly wiggly arms” and then merrily go along the way because when I love my body the way that it is it loves me back with such a positive attitude! Go, Body!!! I believe in you!!

    Reply
    • Jessica Smith February 26, 2017, 4:40 pm

      I love this so much Liz! Thank you for sharing <3

      Reply
  • Fumie Sato February 8, 2017, 8:38 am

    Just like some other guys commenting here, I have sagging skin or loose fat, I just can’t tell which… Over never been overweight, my tummy looks flat but actually pretty flabby and I can see those ugly lines when I sit down. I can’t do all those exercises I see on the net cos they all aggravated my shoulder and knee pain. But I still do steps, yoga, dancing and walking etc everyday spend at least one hour doing all that. I used to have nice firm abs but I might have to give up.

    Reply
  • dona October 12, 2016, 10:07 pm

    I give up, the best thing is to get rid of mirors , nothing improves my skin . Long sleeve, long pans, that’s all! Yes my skin loked better with extra 20 kg but I look and feel better thiner just cover up and don’t let people come very close .hahaha

    Reply
  • Helen Newman September 30, 2016, 10:33 am

    I How about a good excercize for enlargeing your breasts?

    Reply
  • joanne maurer September 7, 2016, 11:18 am

    I have been exercising my entire life. I always suffered from sagging skin. It is weird. I never been overweight I am 62 and am 5’4 129 lbs. My daughter is the same way. Her arm and abs are taught but legs are never totally cut. She is a triathelete and a yoga instructor

    A week without exercising we both fall apart…it is so annoying. My hysterectomy killed my abs and I have a lot of muscle volume on my arms. Some of my body looks like air was let out of it…it is really annoying…but i won’t give up. 🙂

    Reply
  • Celine September 6, 2016, 4:34 pm

    I am doing exercise every other day.I notice my arms are getting saggy and i got bat wings. My legs are getting saggy as my arms. I am in my 60″s. i been doing exercise for 3 yrs.I feel disgusted

    Reply
  • Susan Jones September 1, 2016, 11:33 am

    This is teally depressing. I lost 23 poubds in 3 months time unintentionally from being ill and not being active. My muscle loss and hanging crepe skin is so depressing I’ve tried to take vitamins and protein shakes and nothing’s improving. I’m starting to lift 3 pound weights for my arms and I’ve about given up

    Reply
    • Jessica Smith September 2, 2016, 11:01 am

      Don’t give up Susan! The great news is that you are able to get active again and I’m guessing you have your health back which is a big reason to be CELEBRATING! Take this time to focus on building your strength and wellness — fuel your body with healthy, nutritious foods and keep challenging your muscles by gradually increasing the amount of weight you can lift (with great form) during your workouts. Give your body time to adjust and catch up, it’s been through a lot 🙂

      Reply
  • Layla Ibrahim July 27, 2016, 9:24 pm

    Hi – I have been obese since I was a child. I am 22 years old and my weight is 240 pound and I really want to lose weight by doing 3 days military diet. I heard you can shred 10 pounds in 3 days by doing the military diet, which I am going to do this week. But i’m having a feeling that i will have sagging skin which i keep thinking about so if i do dieting and excerising at the same, will it help me not getting loose skin?

    I hope you could give me some advice to help me changing myself.
    Thanks.

    Reply
  • nancy April 24, 2016, 7:25 am

    This article aeems depressive actually with the bad news that nothing can be done to help sagging skin with exercices u should have added tips that can. Like shower with cold water, apply some cream with specific massage , avoid ultra violet ray and use daily summer screen . All this can help

    Reply
  • Rosa April 10, 2016, 3:28 pm

    The bat wings are the most difficult thing to get rid of. I’ve been working on it for over one year now and I still see a jiggle. I’m doing different exercises to tackle that area. I also use 12 to 15 pound weights. I was doing 1 hour of aerobics, but I diminished it by 45 mins in order to do more strength training. I feel that I’m working as hard as I can. I’m in my late 40’s now. How long does it take for bat wings to completely disappear? Thanks!

    Reply
  • Sandra September 20, 2015, 9:48 pm

    Sorry if I sound cynical…I’m really depressed over this sagging skin issue. You quote Michele Olson as saying, “weight lifting… fills out into the skin from the underside, helping the skin appear tighter because a more developed muscle balloons out into the skin, much like what happens to a flat, saggy inner tube: when being filled up with air, the deflated, saggy inner tube smoothes out and firms up.” This sounds a lot like just getting fat again. What’s the difference? What’s the use? I’m sorry but it almost makes exercise seem worthless to me if there’s nothing I can do to improve the appearance of my body except to make my muscles “balloon out” after working so hard to lose weight….now I’m stuck with a body that looks almost worse than it did when I weighed 250 lbs.

    Reply
    • Mia October 13, 2015, 1:40 am

      I completely agree

      Reply
  • Veronica September 15, 2015, 8:25 pm

    What a great article, Jessica!!

    Reply
  • vikki brendelson September 15, 2015, 8:53 am

    Jessica, Can you address freezing fat. I read where if you put an Ice Pack on the stomach area you can freeze the fat. you leave it on the area for 30 min every day for 4 weeks and you can see a differences. Thank you.

    Reply
  • Stephanie Clery July 8, 2015, 8:29 am

    Thank you for this information finally someone is getting the answers Thank you Jessica you a inspiration to us all

    Stephanie x

    Reply
  • Ralph June 8, 2013, 1:50 am

    If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, I know I can achieve it.

    Reply
  • Cindy June 1, 2013, 9:52 pm

    Thank you for posting this info. I have been working out with 5-8 lb weights, tubes, stretchie bands, etc..for many years. It’s my “bat wings” I can’t seem to get rid of. It’s very lose skin. I’m in my 50’s. Just curious, is it to late for that to at least firm up a little bit? I’ve been working out for many years. I use stretchie bands, 5-10 lbs weights, kettlebell, etc. Nothing seems to be firming that area up at all! I weigh between 125-128 now. I’ve lost 20 lbs this year. It just bugs me every time I wave good bye my arms jiggle!

    Reply
    • sharonw2 October 5, 2015, 7:30 pm

      5-8 lbs isn’t much weight. Plus working out doesn’t mean going right form. My mother was doing a triceps exercise completely wrong for years. Challenge yourself. I think it’s possible to improve. Hire a personal trainer to challenge you and to watch your form.

      Reply

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