The Importance of Leg Exercises for Losing Weight

Running works your legs while blasting calories.

Running works your legs while blasting calories.

Exercise alone is not enough to cause weight loss, but it sure can help by torching calories. And as the largest muscle group in your body, legs shred calories fast. However, working out only affects muscle tissue, not fat. In order to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you use. Then, your body will burn fat for energy. Before starting any exercise program, get the all-clear from your doctor.

Leg Resistance Exercises

Using your legs for resistance exercise allows maximum muscle building, which in turn speeds up your metabolism for easier weight loss. Muscle uses energy to maintain, so you'll burn more calories day and night. Try body-weight exercises such as squats, lunges and step-ups. At the gym, perform leg extensions, leg presses and leg curls. Perform one to three sets of 12 repetitions for each exercise. But don't stop at legs -- you need to work all major muscle groups for good balance. This includes hips, back, chest, arms and stomach along with legs.

Cardio Using Legs

All cardio incinerates calories, but the most efficient moves involve your legs. Running at 5 mph, for example, burns more than 750 calories per hour for a 160-pound woman. Jumping rope shreds more than 1,000 calories per hour at the same weight. Other leg-based options include climbing stairs, hiking and roller blading. For maximum weight loss, perform cardio for an hour a day, five days per week, or a total of 300 minutes per week broken down to suit your schedule.

Other Benefits

Exercising your legs does more than help you lose weight. Resistance moves help fight aging by replacing muscle tissue that naturally disappears over time. All types of exercise also help combat stress, which may help prevent anxiety-related weight gain. Aerobic activity is important for a healthy cardiorespiratory system, improving lung function while strengthening your heart. You'll also enjoy increased stamina, helping you perform everyday tasks. Cardio also boosts immune function to help fend off illness, and helps keep your mind sharp.

Weight Loss

As awesome as exercise is, you need to pair it with a reduced-calorie diet to see results. A quick way to estimate calories for weight loss is to multiply your weight in pounds times the number 12. So at 160 pounds, you'll shed weight eating 1,920 calories per day. Do this the healthy way by trading in processed and fatty fare for whole, lean foods. Make fruits and veggies your staples, along with whole grains such as quinoa, whole-wheat bread and oatmeal. Get protein from lean sources such as seafood, lentils and egg whites.

About the Author

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.

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