Toned, shapely legs look great in skirts and shorts and give you the extra confidence boost you need to feel good about yourself. But shaping your legs can be a challenge. Women tend to have more fat in their legs -- particularly in the thighs -- than men and, sadly, there's no way to spot-reduce. When you lose fat, you lose it all over your body, and you can only do this by burning more calories than you take in. That's what makes the treadmill so great for leg slimming, because you burn calories with the cardio while toning your leg muscles at the same time.
Set your treadmill to a one percent incline. This is roughly equivalent to running on a flat surface outside. Without this incline, you'll be running very slightly downhill, which can make your run easier and decrease the calories you burn.
Run, walk or jog on the treadmill every day. The cardio you get on the treadmill can help you burn calories, but the number of calories you burn will depend on your weight, the length of your workout and its intensity. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio or 75 minutes of high-intensity cardio per week. The Mayo Clinic emphasizes that adults typically need about 300 minutes of moderate cardio per week to lose weight, or half that at high intensity.
Increase the incline after you've grown accustomed to walking or running on a flat -- one percent incline -- surface. Running uphill makes your workout routine more challenging and can help you tone your muscles -- particularly your calves, quadriceps and glutes -- while increasing the number of calories you burn throughout your body.
Incorporate interval training into your routine after about four to six weeks. Interval training allows you to tone your muscles and get calorie-burning cardio at the same time. To get this benefit, alternate between high and low speeds. Sprint for a minute or two, then gradually slow down to a brisk walk for another minute. Pick up the pace again for one to two minutes and repeat this routine throughout your workout.
- Men's Health: To Hill and Back
- Harvard Health Publications: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- The New York Times: A Health Mix of Rest and Motion
- High Intensity Interval Training Explained; James Driver
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do You Need?
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour
- Leg-toning exercises such as squats and lunges can also help shape your leg muscles.
- You can measure the intensity of your workout by how easy it is to talk. If you are gasping in between words or can't talk, you're doing high-intensity exercise. People new to fitness should generally avoid very intense exercises until they build cardiovascular strength.
- If you have trouble breathing or feel dizzy during your routine, slow down and focus on taking deep breaths. If you have heart problems or other serious conditions, consult your doctor before you begin any new exercise routine, particularly one that incorporates interval training.
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.