Want slimmer legs without giving your knees and ankles a pounding? Plenty of low-impact choices build leg muscle, but exercise doesn't really affect the fat on your legs. You can't choose where to burn fat even by working specific muscles. The trick is to lose body fat all over, and then your legs will slim down as well -- though your proportions won't change.
Aerobic exercise shreds calories for fast fat burning. Although the cardio world is filled with high-impact exercises such as running, scores of gentler options are just as effective. Swimming, cycling and rowing are all no-impact choices, and the former two engage your leg muscles for toning. A low-impact cardio class is another idea. Perform these activities for 300 minutes a week for optimal results. This breaks down to an hour a day, five days per week. However, you can arrange your schedule as you please, as long as each session lasts at least 10 minutes.
Not only is strength training easy on the joints, but it helps shape your gams in two ways. The activity builds muscle for definition and speeds your resting metabolic rate for faster fat loss, since the new muscle requires calories to maintain. Try squats; lunges; stepups, which involve stepping up and down from a platform; deadlifts, which involve bending your knees as your pick up weights from a standing position; and calf raises. Perform eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise. Start with one set and work your way up to three sets over time, performing these exercises three times weekly.
Yoga is a low-impact resistance exercise with the added benefit of stress reduction. Stress is linked to excess body fat because it encourages overeating -- and you're more likely to reach for fatty, sugary fare. All exercise fights stress to some degree, but yoga specifically addresses your mind, body and spirit. A yoga class is the best option, since poses can be difficult and proper form is vital. For maximum calorie burning and muscle toning, pick an intense style of yoga such as Bikram, which goes through 26 poses in a heated room, or Ashtanga, which focuses on activating muscles for strength and flexibility.
Slimmer legs require a slimmer body, which is almost completely dependent on calories. It's difficult to determine exactly how many calories you need, since everyone's metabolism is different. You can estimate by multiplying your weight in pounds by 12. The result is the number of calories to eat each day for weight loss. So a 150-pound woman should consume 1,800 calories per day to slim down. Eat filling, low-cal fruits and veggies along with whole grains such as corn tortillas and whole-wheat bread. Avoid fatty meats and cheeses, focusing on lean proteins such as beans, egg whites and low-fat dairy.
- Military.com: Choosing Non-Impact Workout Options
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise for Weight Loss -- Calories Burned in 1 Hour
- IdeaFit.com: Unraveling The Stress-Eating-Obesity Knot
- ShapeFit.com: Yoga Information -- Different Types of Yoga Styles
- American College of Sports Medicine: Metabolism Is Modifiable With the Right Lifestyle Changes
- American Council on Exercise: Upper Leg Exercises
- ShapeFit.com: Basal Metabolic Rate --Learn How to Calculate & Find Your BMR
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.