Hitting the pavement or treadmill for a run blasts calories at lightening speed, which translates into faster weight loss. And while no workout can pluck the fat right from your thighs, buttocks or any other trouble zone, losing total body fat will slim you all over. Running doesn't provide the same muscle-building power as weight training, however, so you'll need both types of activities for sculpted buns and thighs. If you don't already run, start with brisk walking and slowly increase your speed.
The best way to shed fat is with the tried-and-true method of burning more calories than you eat -- and running has your back on this one. In just 20 minutes, a 140-pound woman melts 315 calories running at 6.5 mph, and 604 calories running at 8.5 mph. A pound of fat is about 3,500 calories, which seasoned runners can burn in fewer than six sessions. For best results, aim for 75 to 150 minutes per week of running or other vigorous cardio, such as swimming laps.
For serious glute action, take to the hills -- or simply adjust your treadmill. Running up an incline places more demand on the hamstrings in back of your thighs as well as your buttocks, hips and calves because these muscles must work harder to propel you upward. You'll feel the burn with a grade of 3 to 5 percent, but for a real challenge, "Runner's World" recommends a moderately steep incline with a 5- to 10-percent grade.
Even running uphill doesn't provide as much resistance as weight training, which pushes muscles harder than is sustainable with a long cardio workout. Therefore, you'll achieve shapelier thighs and buttocks if you perform squats, lunges and step-ups in addition to your running routine. For even more shaping action, hold a dumbbell in each hand as you do these moves. For good balance and posture -- which can have a slimming effect -- don't forget the rest of your body. Perform weighted or body-weight exercises for your arms, back, chest and abs along with your lower body.
Eating for Fat Loss
Running only works for weight loss if you don't eat as many calories as you burn. To ensure success, forget the phrase "fast food" and prepare your own meals with whole, natural items. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always smart choices, as are whole grains such as brown rice and oatmeal. Choose low-calorie proteins such as black beans and broiled tuna steaks. Keep portion sizes on the small side -- it may help to place meals onto a salad plate rather than a full-sized dish.
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.