Does Walking on a High Incline Help Tone Your Thighs?

Upper and inner thighs tighten with high incline walking.
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Countless exercises, and even special shoes, claim to target the glutes and calves, turning your walk into a lower body-boosting workout. Yet to tone and tighten your thighs -- those inner adductors and abductors -- it will take more than mere walking. Cinch your thighs by raising the incline, whether indoors on a treadmill or out on a hilly trail. Hint: Choose the highest incline possible for taut thighs.

Types of Inclines

    Types of inclines can vary greatly. Depending on your budgetary constraints, you may need to be creative when looking to tone your thighs. Whether electronic or self-adjustable, treadmills come with the ability to preset the incline. With higher end models, you can vary the workout by adjusting the degree of incline throughout your workout. Malls and office buildings offer inclining opportunities as well. Be on the lookout for wheelchair ramps and staircases. For some fresh air, a city park or nature preserve ripe with steep trails is ideal for thigh tightening.

Why Go High?

    When it comes to height, notes REVO2LT Running Team director and coach Jason Karp, Ph.D., the higher inclines make your muscles work harder. In the April 2009 issue of "Fitness" magazine, Karp advises increasing your incline and intensity each time you walk to tone those thighs and lower body. When it comes to gauging incline, unless you're on a treadmill, this can be tricky. Some park trail maps note the incline. Or you may be able to download a fitness app that tracks mileage, speed and incline on your smart device.

Toning Power

    The key to targeting your inner and outer thighs with a high incline, add fitness expert Karon Karter, is by using sideways and backwards moves in your walk. Watch it, though, if you're trying this on the treadmill. Lower your speed and keep your hands securely on the handrails. Karter advises that balancing your feet on the nonmoving treadmill sides before switching positions is important to prevent injury. Karter also stresses the toning power of interval training -- whether on the treadmill or on the trail. Her intervals incorporate speeds from 3.5 miles per hour to 4, with inclines starting at zero and reaching to 10 percent.


    For treadmill walkers, exercise physiologist Therese Iknoian notes that high inclines of 10 and above can be intense, in her book "Fitness Walking." If you notice you're slouching or hanging on to the railing, lower the incline. For trail or mall walkers, if you're out of breath, the incline may be too steep. While walking on a high incline, you may find it helpful to check your heart rate. Making sure you're still in an aerobic heart rate zone -- where your body is burning calories -- and not in an anaerobic zone -- where your body is burning muscle -- can tell you whether you should push on or back off. Use an online heart rate calculator before exercising, or wear a portable monitor on your wrist or upper arm.

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