You can have shapely, toned legs through a combination of losing excess weight and building lean muscle tone. Losing excess weight requires cardiovascular exercise and a healthy diet so you eat fewer calories. Strength training with weights will build muscle tone that will be revealed as you lose inches.
Muscles To Work
To get toned legs, you need to target your hamstrings and quadriceps of the upper leg and the calf muscles. A cardio routine that gets your heart pumping and works multiple leg muscle groups is ideal. For maximum results, make it your goal to work out an hour a day, five days a week.
Gym Cardio Exercises
There are many options for getting a powerful one-hour cardio workout at the gym; some of the most popular are the treadmill, elliptical and stationary bike. Each of these is adjustable in resistance to meet your fitness level. The elliptical has the advantage of being like the natural movement on a treadmill but with reduced impact -- footpads move with your stride and swinging hand bars add calorie burn. The stationary bike removes your body weight from the exercise, making it easier for those with a lot of weight to lose who need to build their stamina. Removing your own weight as a factor means you might be able to work out for longer.
Home Cardio Exercise Options
An effective cardio plan is possible for those who don't want to trek to the gym as well. Running or biking outside can be enjoyable and excellent exercise. Biking also has the option of replacing your commute, depending on your routine. If weather doesn't allow you to leave the house, then combine jumping jacks and forward lunges for a fast, intense workout. Do 20 jumping jacks, pause and repeat for another round. To do a lunge, stand with your legs hip-width apart and step your right leg far forward, then bend that knee to lower your body until the thigh is parallel to the floor. Pause here and raise while keeping your shoulders back and chest up throughout the move, bringing the right foot back to meet the left. Repeat this 20 times switching legs.
Safety and Tips
As with any new exercise routine, take care to listen to your body's natural signs of stress. If you have substantial weight to lose or health concerns then consult a doctor before starting. If you have joint concerns then do low-impact workouts like the elliptical and cycling. Throughout all of these exercises, keep your chest lifted and stomach in to have an added abdominal workout. As you build stamina in your workout then add strength training with weight machines such as the leg press, leg curl and leg extender to increase your muscle tone.
Grace Bordelon is a public relations professional, teacher and writer. She owns her own boutique public relations firm that specializes in the advertising, gaming and software industries. She also teaches at a major design school for fine artists, commercial artists and graphic designers. Bordelon holds a B.A. in international economics and an M.A. in English from Bard College.