Performing regular cardio exercise not only conditions the cardiovascular system, but can tone your legs when you utilize cardio equipment that predominantly recruits the leg muscles. Such machines include stair climbers, treadmills, jump ropes and spinning bikes. To meet the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ physical activity guidelines whilst toning your legs in the process, exercise at moderate to vigorous intensity for an hour or more each day using any of the four leg-focused cardio options below.
Climbing for Conditioned Legs
Climbing on a stair stepper is one of the best pieces of cardio equipment because it works numerous lower body muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteal muscles, hip flexors and calves, according to Georgia State University. Stair steppers go by many names, including stairmasters, stepmills and stair climbers. To ensure that your stair stepper workout effectively tones your legs, avoid cheating by not leaning on the handrails. If you don't have a machine handy, a regular flight of stairs can offer a similar workout.
Jogging for Jiggle-Free Legs
Jogging on a treadmill can work nearly every muscle in your legs and is one of the best ways to give them an overall toned appearance, not to mention help you burn in the area of 500 calories an hour, according to the January 2006 issue of “Fitness.” Jogging or walking at an incline on the treadmill will actively engage the thighs and the calves, as well as the gluteal muscles needed for a toned backside. Walking sideways and backwards can also target the inner and outer thighs, explains Karon Karter in “The Ultimate Body Shaping Bible.” When switching direction on the treadmill, make sure to first reduce your speed and proceed with caution to avoid tripping.
Jumping for Chiseled Calves
Jumping rope, a classic and effective cardio exercise, is one of the best ways to target the lower legs because it involves constant calf engagement. Not only is jumping rope an excellent method to tone the legs and burn calories, but it’s one of the most readily available and cost-efficient pieces of cardio equipment on the market. While the calf muscles, particularly the soleus, predominantly benefit from jumping rope, the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteal muscles are also recruited, according to Human Kinetics.
Spinning for Shapely Legs
Indoor cycling on an upright spinning bike, commonly referred to as spinning, engages every large muscle of your legs, including the hamstrings, thighs and calves, according to Mad Dogg Athletics, Inc. The upstroke primarily works the fronts of your thighs and the down stroke targets the back of your thighs. Constantly pulling and pushing on the pedals recruits the calves, as well, as is one of the best ways to tone the legs.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Summary
- Spinning.com: What Does Indoor Cycling Tone?
- Georgia State University: Stairclimbing
- The Ultimate Body Shaping Bible; Karon Karter
- Fitness: 3 Ways to Burn 500 Calories
- Human Kinetics: Learn Three Phases of Rope Jumping