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A regular mix of cardio and strength training leads to toned thigh muscles.
While it may be unattractive, the type of fat -- subcutaneous -- that collects in your hip and thigh area is less dangerous for you than the fat that collects along your waistline -- visceral fat, which sits beside your organs. Firm, toned and slim may be your end goal for your thighs. You can't spot reduce any one area of your body, but you can exercise regularly and follow a healthy, balanced diet to lose overall body fat. Thigh exercises build muscle in your legs, creating a firmer, more slender toned thigh.
Genetics, Calories and Weight Loss
Genetics will play a part in where your body carries excess weight. For some people, your extra weight or body fat will stick to your thighs, even if you are at your ideal body weight. However, toning exercises can make your thighs appear slimmer as you build muscle. To lose overall body fat, you need to consume fewer calories than you put out. One pound of fat consists of 3,500 calories. To lose one pound per week then, you need to expend 3,500 calories more per week than you take in. This is easier than it might appear: Cutting 500 calories per day from your diet will give you the deficit you need and help slim your body overall.
Exercises for Your Thighs
A range of thigh exercises help build muscle in the area, creating a toned appearance and firmness. Choose exercises such as lunges, squats, deadlifts and leg presses to work multiple thigh muscles at once. Maintain good form through all of your repetitions, and use weights or resistance cables to make the exercise more challenging. Dance classes such as ballet will also provide a challenging workout for muscles in your hip and legs.
To target specific thigh muscles, choose isolation exercises such as using the adductor machine to focus the challenge to your inner thighs. The abductor machine and side leg raises work out the muscles along your outer thigh. Other exercise machines that target specific muscles include leg curl machines for hamstrings and leg extension machines for your quadriceps.
Why Build Muscle At All?
While building muscle when you want your thighs to be smaller might seem counterintuitive, strength training will actually help you reduce overall body fat as well as reduce thigh size. Muscle is naturally more compact than fat, so replacing fat with muscle in your thighs reduces their appearance. Muscle is also better at burning calories than fat, so your body burns more calories if it has more muscle. Use a higher number of repetitions and a lower weight for your thigh exercises if you are concerned about building too much muscle - one set of up to 12 repetitions is a healthy place to start. If you're not fatigued at the end of this set, increase the weight or complete another set.
Cardio, Cardio and Cardio
Thigh exercises and strength training alone won't help you lose fat on your thighs. For this, you need a high-intensity, calorie-burning exercise such as jogging, cycling or swimming. Increasing your heart rate over a sustained period improves your cardiovascular health as well as burns calories, increasing your total calorie expenditure. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of moderate level aerobic exercise each week to maintain your weight, and increasing the amount of weekly exercise to more 250 to 300 minutes to lose weight. If you exercise vigorously, the CDC recommends 75 to maintain weight and 150 minutes to lose it.