Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
Cellulite, exercise, exercise bike, infrared light, light therapy, phototherapy.
The CelluBike is an exercise bike that combines pedaling exercise with infrared light therapy as a way to reduce cellulite. Cellulite describes deposits of fat under the skin that cause dimples and bumps to form. The CelluBike looks like a small vessel with a bicycle inside. The user sits on the reclining bicycle while 27 high-intensity infrared lamps shine on the person's thighs. It is unclear if this therapy is effective.
Cellulite forms when fat cells accumulate inside the spaces of the connective network of fibers (called septa) directly below the skin. The septa anchors fat tissue just beneath the skin to deep muscles. When fat cells expand or the skin tightens, the septa may stretch, break down, or pull tight, and the fat underneath squeezes closer to the surface of the skin. As a result, cellulite forms. Cellulite commonly occurs on the hips, thighs, and buttocks. Although cellulite is not a sign of, and does not cause, any medical problems, it may be a cosmetic concern.
The manufacturer of CelluBike claims that the properties of infrared light combined with physical exertion increase circulation and collagen production to help repair the septa and reduce cellulite in the body. The manufacturer claims that the infrared light softens fatty tissues and releases toxins. However, a scientific explanation is not provided. Currently, there is a lack of high-quality trials evaluating the efficacy of the CelluBike for any cosmetic or medical problem.
The manufacturer of the CelluBike technology also claims that the device may treat acne, psoriasis, eczema, and other skin problems. In addition, advocates claim that the CelluBike may help treat other lower body problems, such as pain and muscle or joint injuries. However, none of these uses have proven to be effective, and they are not related to the primary function of the bike.
While demonstrable effects of the CelluBike are controversial, visible red light and infrared light have been shown to temporarily reduce the effects of aging on the skin. A variety of other light therapy techniques have been effective for a wide range of conditions, including skin acne, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), non-seasonal depression, and delayed sleep phase syndrome. Limited evidence suggests that each wavelength of light possesses its own therapeutic qualities.
Humans transform natural sunlight into electrochemical energy, which activates a chain of biochemical reactions inside cells, stimulating metabolism and reinforcing the immune response. The human response to light therapy is more complicated because natural sunlight does not offer wavelengths of useful light in strong enough concentrations.
General: Treatments that involve the CelluBike are available at some tanning salons and fitness centers in the United States and Europe.
What to expect: Before treatment, a technician assesses the person's fitness level and takes body and weight measurements. Goals of treatment are discussed. The technician then advises the person on the frequency and duration of sessions.
CelluBike technicians generally recommend three sessions per week for a total of five weeks. The sessions usually last about 40 minutes. Typically, 15 treatments cost about $1,400.
During sessions, the person sits on the CelluBike and pedals on the recumbent bicycle at about 75% of his/her maximum heart rate. The technician then adjusts the angle and intensity of the 27 infrared lights surrounding the person. The intensity of the infrared rays varies with each session, supposedly to maximize the effects of the treatment. The exercise is performed continuously for about 40 minutes.
A technician records changes in the person's appearance every five sessions.
Maximizing results: The manufacturer of CelluBike advises people enrolled in the program to abide by several measures in order to maximize their benefits. People are encouraged to limit or avoid carbonated drinks, alcohol, and smoking. People should consume well-rounded diets and eat fresh, whole foods. Processed foods, fast foods, sugars, and fats should be minimized or avoided, according to the manufacturer. Finally, patients are advised to drink large amounts of water. Drinking fluids helps prevent dehydration during the exercise. In addition, the manufacturer claims that 22 ounces of water is required to metabolize one ounce of fat.
Qualifications: CelluBike technicians are certified by CelluBike, but there is no medical or health organization that awards accreditation. It is unknown what other medical or health backgrounds the technicians may or may not have.
Although the manufacturer of CelluBike claims that therapy can reduce cellulite within several hours of each session, there is a lack of high-quality trials evaluating the efficacy of the CelluBike for any cosmetic or medical problem. Consumers should be aware that c well-documented effective treatments for cellulite are currently lacking.
Cellulite therapies are thought to work by strengthening blood vessels, increasing blood flow, encouraging the production of connective tissue, stimulating the production of collagen and elastin, attracting water to the cells, repairing cell membranes, reducing wasted water, preventing free-radical damage, reducing inflammation, and/or promoting exfoliation (removal of dead skin cells).
The CelluBike incorporates an exercise bike because the movement allegedly softens the cellulite, making it more susceptible to the action of the infrared light. The exercise causes blood vessels and capillaries to open, thereby increasing the amount of blood flow to the thighs and buttocks. The exercise is thought to increase the tone and "tissue structure" of the thighs and buttocks.
Theoretically, the infrared light transforms from light energy into heat energy when it penetrates the skin. The manufacturer claims that because the infrared light may penetrate up 1.5 inches into the target areas, the increased blood circulation softens the cellulite, which is held in the subcutaneous layer of fat.
Supposedly, the combined action also increases the rate of fatty acid oxidation (burning of fat cells), which normally only begins after 30 minutes of continuous physical exercise.
The increased temperature from the heat of the lights, combined with the increased blood flow caused by the physical exercise, may move toxins out of the fat tissues and into the bloodstream. The increased metabolism caused by light and exercise supposedly accelerates the body's metabolic processes. The body also uses more water, which is another vehicle for flushing away fats and toxins. The unspecified "residues" then leave the body through the sweat glands and the excretion system.
Although many dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons consider cellulite to be a legitimate problem, most of the medical community does not view cellulite as a medical disorder. Instead, they consider cellulite to be a normal condition that affects many women and some men. The best way to avoid cellulite may be to take preventative measures: eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fiber; stay hydrated with plenty of fluids; exercise regularly to help keep muscles toned and bones strong; and maintain a healthy weight.
People, especially those with skin or medical problems, should talk to their doctors before starting CelluBike treatments to learn about possible risks and side effects.
People should be aware that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken vigorous action to stop businesses, manufacturers, and spa Web sites from advertising cellulite treatments as "medical device[s] that will affect the structure or function of the body." However, many businesses, manufactures, and spa Web sites continue to make these claims.
Consumers should also be aware that well-documented effective treatments for cellulite are currently lacking.
This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.
March 22, 2017