Is there do-it-yourself help for droopy knees, bra bulges or a saggy face? Smart Fitness answers your queries. Have an exercise question? To e-mail us, . We’ll post select answers in future columns.
Q: I have fat knees. What can I do to shape them up?
A: First off, realize there is no such thing as spot reduction. In other words, there is no specific exercise to allow you to lose fat from just your knees.
"Weight loss occurs throughout the entire body," explains exercise physiologist and dietitian Tavis Piattoly, training and wellness program manager at Ochsner Clinic's Elmwood Fitness Center in New Orleans.
What you can do, though, is engage in a cardiovascular exercise program to burn fat all over. Combine a cardio regimen with a healthy diet plan to help you shed pounds most efficiently.
But expect to lose weight in other areas besides the knees first, says Piattoly. Men traditionally store fat in their abdominal region, so that's where they'll probably lose from first. Women will likely lose from the hips, thighs and breasts before other areas.
Besides shedding weight, it's also important to strength train, says Rob Parr, a personal trainer in Los Angeles who says he often hears complaints about "droopy knees."
The muscles you want to target are the quadriceps in the thighs. The more toned they are, the less likely the knees will look droopy, he says.
Key exercises are lunges (make sure to push through the ball of the foot to really work the inner thigh), squats, step-ups and machine leg extensions, says Parr. Aim to perform these exercises a few times a week, doing three sets of 15 to 30 repetitions with a weight heavy enough to fatigue the muscles by the last few reps. He recommends mixing up the repetitions and the weight to really challenge the muscles.
Biking is another great way to tone the quads, Parr says, and it offers the added bonus of helping you burn fat.
Q: What exercises can I do to tone the area between my upper arm and my chest, where fat bulges over my bra?
A: Again, you can't spot reduce. But a good diet and cardio program can help you shed body weight all over, including the bra-bulge area.
As far as toning, target the pecs. Good exercises are the bench press and the chest fly, says Parr. Aim for three sets of 8 to 15 repetitions, a few times a week, with heavy enough weight to reach full muscle fatigue.
Q: What are some good exercises for the neck (double chin) to shrink and firm it up, as well as for the overall face to help reverse aging?
A: A total-body weight-loss plan can help you lose some fat in your neck and face, too. But it won't help you firm up any loose skin left behind, says Dr. Robert Bernard, a plastic surgeon in White Plains, N.Y., and past-president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
And, unfortunately, there are no simple face or neck exercises that help improve appearance or magically reverse aging, according to Bernard. No scientific studies have shown such an approach to work, he notes.
"If it was helping I'd have all my patients doing facial exercises before and after surgery," Bernard says. "And I'd be doing them myself every morning."
The big threats to a youthful face and neck aren't so much weak muscles but rather gravity, sun exposure, smoking and the passage of time, he says.
Gravity pulls the fat, skin and muscle downward, causing them to "slide off the boney frame," Bernard says.
In addition, sun exposure and smoking can dramatically age the skin, causing it to lose its elasticity, wrinkle and sag prematurely.
So to keep your face and neck looking healthy, don't smoke or bake in the sun, and try to maintain a healthy weight.
Beyond that, you could turn to Botox, facial fillers or plastic surgery. But even they can't reverse aging — they just make it seem like it's slowed down some.
Smart Fitness appears every other Tuesday.