If stretch marks are cramping your style, here's some uplifting news: Those colored streaks on your skin will probably fade all by themselves, even if you do nothing to treat them. That's a good thing, because nixing them can prove challenging and working out won't make them fade. Still, exercise can help prevent you from getting stretch marks in the first place -- and help sculpt beautiful stomach muscles -- so don't skimp on the workouts.
About Stretch Marks
You may be well past puberty, but the rapid growth spurt could have left red, purple or silvery marks on your skin that last for years. Pregnancy or fast weight gain can also create stretch marks, which usually strike on the breasts, stomach, hips and thighs. Some stretch marks pop up with overuse of cortisone creams, so take it easy on these products if you can. Sometimes stretch marks indicate a more serious condition, so see your doctor if you're not sure why you have them.
Exercise and Stretch Marks
As amazing as it would be to simply work off your stretch marks, exercise won't make any difference in reducing or removing them. However, physical activity does help you maintain a healthy weight, which may prevent your skin from stretching in the first place. According to MayoClinic.com, exercise and healthy eating are the best preventative measures for stretch marks, even during pregnancy -- although soon-to-be moms should discuss safe options with their physicians before hitting the gym. Generally, cardio exercises such as cycling, jogging and swimming are more effective for weight management than toning exercises.
Toning and Appearance
Exercise may not affect existing stretch marks, but toning moves can give you killer abs so you may not even mind them anymore. Perform crunches or situps at home, or use twist or crunch machines at the gym for a gorgeously sculpted stomach. For optimal fitness and good balance, tone the rest of your body to match. You can lift weights or perform squats, lunges, pushups and other body-weight activities. For best results, do toning exercises two to three days per week.
Stretch Mark Reduction
If you'd rather not wait for your stretch marks to fade naturally, NYU Langone Medical Center recommends trying a prescription tretinoin cream for newer marks, but not during pregnancy. Laser treatment is another effective option, and can fade both old and new discoloration. Lasers are expensive though, and often require multiple treatments. Those over-the-counter creams and lotions probably won't do you much good, so save your money and walk right past the cocoa butter at the drug store.
- MayoClinic.com: Stretch Marks: Lifestyle and Home Remedies
- NYU Langone Medical Center: Stretch Marks
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Striae
- MayoClinic.com: Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier
- Journal of Family Practice: Do Any Topical Agents Help Prevent or Reduce Stretch Marks?
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.