Genetics plays a large part in how your legs are shaped, but toning and strengthening can reshape your legs and give you sleek, slender legs or legs with well-defined muscles, depending on your workout routine. Both cycling and treadmill workouts are basically aerobic, providing a cardiopulmonary workout while exercising the leg muscles. Although leg muscles become stronger from cycling or walking on a treadmill, greater muscle definition requires specific resistance exercises.
Lack of excess weight is one of the factors contributing to "nice" legs, and aerobic exercise is one of the best ways to manage weight. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 2 1/2 hours of moderate physical activity per week for adults or 1 1/4 hours of intense physical activity, taken in increments of at least 10 minutes. Both moderate cycling and treadmill workouts burn approximately 300 calories per hour.
Cycling helps develop nice legs through exercise of the upper thigh muscles. Quadriceps are muscles on the front of your upper thigh. Hamstrings are a strong band of muscles that attach to the lower portion of your pelvis and extend down the back of your leg and past your knee. These muscles work in a sequence of contracting and releasing to operate your leg to push the cycle pedals. Calf muscles in your lower leg, the gastrocnemius and soleus, also receive a workout during this exercise. Cycling, a nonimpact exercise, is better than treadmill walking when low impact is important -- for example, if you've been injured or have joint pain.
Treadmill workouts tone and strengthen your lower body. As a low-impact exercise, treadmill workouts are the better exercise for nice legs if you want to strengthen your bones while working out your quads, hamstrings and calves. Your hips and glutes also get a workout from treadmill exercises. Because your hips and butt can contribute to the saddlebag-effect of overweight and under-strengthened muscles, walking on a treadmill can be the better exercise when large thighs are a problem. Use a heel-to-toe foot fall for optimal calf-muscle exercise and to prevent injury.
Pre- and Post-Workout
To obtain the full benefits of cycling or walking on a treadmill for nice legs, warm up for five minutes. On a treadmill, walk at a slow pace, no more than 3 mph. Do a one-mile cool-down at a low pace as well. Perform cycling warm-ups and cool-downs in a similar fashion, allowing your muscles time to warm up at a slow speed before you begin a 20- to 50-minute workout, and then slow your speed for a cool-down period. Include stretches in your cool-down routine to prevent muscles from tightening and contracting. Gentle stretches increase the strengthening benefit of exercise and aid the cool-down process.
- ACE: Ace Lists Top Ten Reasons to Stretch
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Physical Activity Guidelines for America
- Exploratorium: How Do Your Muscles Work
- Cool Running: Man vs. Machine: The Indoor Cardiovascular Machines
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour
For Judy Kilpatrick, gardening is the best mental health therapy of all. Combining her interests in both of these fields, Kilpatrick is a professional flower grower and a practicing, licensed mental health therapist. A graduate of East Carolina University, Kilpatrick writes for national and regional publications.