Whether you want slimmer or more shapely legs or both, achieving your personal fitness goals won’t feel like an uphill battle if you incorporate incline walking into your workout plan. Incline walking is a highly efficient cardiovascular training method that burns body fat and can make your lower body lean, firm and toned. Celebrity fitness trainer Jillian Michaels recommends incline walking on exercise machines such as treadmills or on hilly outdoor terrain to maximize workout intensity. Consult a health-care provider to discuss how challenging your workouts should be.
Better Not Bigger
Incline walking is a sustained, fat-burning aerobic activity that can stimulate and improve the efficiency of slow-twitch muscle fibers. Unlike fast-switch muscle fibers, which are associated with anaerobic activities such as weight lifting and respond by increasing in size, slow-twitch fibers are associated with endurance activities and don’t grow in size nearly as much, so incline walking can firm and tone legs without making them overly muscular. Incline walking heightens the intensity of lower-body muscle stimulation and calorie-burning potential, so even at a pace that isn't high speed, you can reach fitness goals fast.
Walking on an incline as opposed to a level surface is an effective way to burn body fat and make your legs slimmer, according to sports medicine specialist Dr. Gabe Mirkin. He explains that each 1 percent increase in your walking elevation angle requires 4 percent more energy output. Researchers at the University of Georgia, in a study published in the "Journal of Physiology" in 1997, also found that performing aerobic exercise uphill rather than on level ground, at the same relative intensity level, activated an average of 7 percent more lower-body muscle fibers per stride. How quickly you’ll be able to slim and tone your legs depends on the length of time you spend incline walking, the incline level you choose and the consistency of your workouts.
Slow Down for Fast Results
If you want slimmer legs with feminine muscularity, it can be better to incline walk than to run. Running at a fast pace burns calories from carbohydrate stores, but incline walking at a slow to moderate pace can burn larger amounts of fat by increasing muscle activation and physiological demands. Research conducted by Dr. Matthew Rhea, Director of Human Movement at A.T. Still University, found that walking at 2 miles per hour with a 16 percent incline setting burned over 6 calories per minute from fat stores. Conversely, less than 2 calories per minute were burned from fat stores when running 6 miles per hour and using a zero-percent incline.
The best time to walk is anytime you can make the time, but fat loss can be accelerated if you walk using an incline feature following a weight-training workout when glycogen stores are diminished and your body can use more fat stores for energy. Consider your current fitness level to determine the intensity of your workouts and what incline settings you should use on machines. Since incline walking recruits large lower-body muscle groups, including quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and glutes, space workouts at least two days apart to allow for adequate rest and recovery. Keep in mind that following a healthy diet can also help you make the most of your workouts and burn fat faster to reveal slimmer, stronger legs.
Bari Auerbach writes a fitness column and has won trophies in fitness shows. Since graduating from Florida International University in 1984 with a degree in communications, she has written for national clients; interviewed dignitaries and celebrities for magazines; and has covered topics including business, politics, fashion and food.