Most women long for thin, toned thighs and washboard abs, but these areas tend to accumulate fat faster than other areas. For many women, this can lead to an endless cycle of frustration when crunches and situps don't seem to do the job. But aerobic exercise -- sometimes called cardiovascular exercise or cardio -- is an important part of a body-shaping fitness routine, and regular cardio can help slim your thighs and stomach.
Aerobics and Fat
Aerobic exercise gets your heart pounding and works large muscle groups. Cycling, jumping rope and jogging are all examples of cardiovascular exercise. Aerobics burns calories -- which turn into fat -- throughout your body. While strength training builds muscle and can increase your metabolism because muscle burns more calories than fat, cardio is key for rapidly shedding fat. By incorporating regular cardio into your fitness routine, you can shed pounds more quickly by burning fat throughout your body.
Other Aerobic Benefits
Cardiovascular exercise can help keep your heart and lungs healthy. During cardio, your heart has to pump more quickly to ensure an adequate blood and oxygen supply to your muscles and organs. Regular heart exercise can improve the strength and health of your cardiac muscles, reducing your risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems. You may also find that your blood pressure and pulse drop and that you experience less difficulty breathing during exercise.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio such as walking, or 75 minutes of high-intensity cardio such as running every week. You can maximize your fat-burning benefits by incorporating interval training into your cardio routine. Try increasing your speed for brief 30-second to one-minute intervals, then slowing down and speeding up again. For example, if you're cycling, cycle at close to your maximum speed for 45 seconds, then gradually slow down for a minute or two. Then speed up again. Repeat this process throughout your workout.
If you're craving thighs and a stomach that aren't just trim but also defined, you'll need to incorporate resistance-based training into your fitness routine. Resistance exercise builds muscle, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults engage in strength training at least two days per week. Situps, leg lifts, squats and weightlifting are all examples of strength training that, when targeted and performed correctly, can help you build muscle.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.