In a world where the ideal body image can seem unattainable, exercise that offers a two-for-the-price-of-one deal might sound too good to be true. But with the right workout routine -- alongside a healthy diet -- you can get lovely legs and a beautiful belly. Not all leg workouts decrease belly fat, but if you plan your routine well and stick to fat-burning exercises, you can burn fat in both your legs and your belly.
If you spend your time researching exercises that work your stomach, you're doing it wrong. It's not possible to shed fat in just one part of your body, and aerobic exercise is the most effective way to burn fat-building calories. Many forms of aerobic exercise work your legs. Cycling, jumping rope, running and swimming all challenge your leg muscles while shedding fat throughout your body, including in your belly. To lose a pound of fat, you'll have to burn 3,500 calories, and the Mayo Clinic points out that you might need as much as 300 minutes of aerobic exercise a week to lose weight.
If you're hoping for washboard abs and visible calves, you can't neglect a strength-training routine. Exercises such as lunges and squats target your legs but use your abs to stabilize your body, and this can help tone your belly. Scissor kicks also work your legs while targeting the lower abs -- a problem area for many women. To do a scissor kick, lie on your back with your ab muscles tightened. Lift your legs about 6 inches off of the ground. While keeping legs straight, move one leg up and then the other, creating a scissoring kick motion. Start with two to three sets of five to 10 reps of each exercise, then gradually build up to more reps.
Importance of Diet
No matter how much you exercise, if you're chowing down on fattening foods, you won't see a change in your legs or stomach. Try eating more meals with smaller portions and snacking on healthy foods such as nuts and berries. Eat lean proteins and cut out fat-building sodas and sugary snacks. These might taste good, but they only provide empty calories that you'll have to burn off later.
If you're trying to get in shape for bikini season, you might be in a rush to lose weight. But crash diets and compulsive exercise aren't sustainable over the long term and can even be harmful. Instead, focus on starting slowly and gradually exercising more as you get into better shape. One to two pounds a week is generally a healthy goal for weight loss. Don't force any activities that are uncomfortable. Instead, focus on stretching your muscles and gradually building up to more challenging workout routines.
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.