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Working out your legs can tone the muscles while cardio helps with fat loss.
Working out your legs helps strengthen and tone them, but you can't target a specific body part for fat loss. Spot-reducing is ineffective, according to the American Council on Exercise, but working your legs while engaging in cardiovascular exercise can help with overall fat loss.
Exercises to Lose Leg Fat
To lose fat on your legs you must engage in cardiovascular exercises to lose weight all over. Heart-pumping aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, running and cycling can help you create a calorie deficit, leading to weight loss. Likewise, participating in sports such as tennis or basketball can help you lose fat. You don't have to perform cardio exercises that engage the leg muscles to lose fat, but doing so will give you the benefit of toning them while losing fat all over. One hour of vigorous aerobic activity, such as running or cycling can burn about 500 calories. About seven hours of exercise burns the equivalent of 1 pound of fat, which is 3,500 calories.
Working out your legs with strength-training exercises will help you achieve the trim look you're after. As you build muscle mass while simultaneously losing weight, you'll reveal slim, toned legs. A strength-training workout that targets the legs can include exercises such as lunges, squats and calf raises, which you can do while holding weights. If you work out at a gym, leg extensions, leg curls and hip adduction and abduction also will work the leg muscles.
Losing 1 to 2 pounds per week is safe and will help you keep the weight off long-term. To lose weight all over, including on your legs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends performing 150 to 300 minutes per week of cardiovascular exercise. You can break up your sessions to suit your fitness ability and schedule. If you're new to cardio exercise, start off slowly -- even 10 minutes per day -- and add five minutes each week. Also perform strength training exercises two to three times per week for 20 minutes per session. If you're training with weights, use a weight heavy enough to tire your leg muscles by the 12th repetition. When the weights become easier to lift, increase by 5 to 10 percent. Balance your leg-toning workouts by adding upper body exercises to your strength-training routine. See your physician for health clearance before you begin exercising.
Eating Habits for Thinner Legs
The foods you eat and their amounts also have an impact on whether or not you lose weight in your legs and all over. As you burn 250 to 500 calories daily with aerobic exercise, you also can cut the same amount from your caloric intake. Strive to consume at least 1400 calories per day, suggests the University of Michigan, while eating a diet rich in lean protein, fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains and low-fat dairy.