Spot reducing belly and thigh fat with exercise is not possible, but the muscle definition you create with your leg and ab exercises will be more visible after you lose weight overall. Belly fat has a tendency to develop into deep visceral fat, which can pack around the organs and increase your chances for cardiovascular disease.
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Leg fat does not offer the same physical threat as belly fat, but it can still cause embarrassment and low self-esteem. Lose both types of fat by changing your eating habits and exercising. Fat-burning and muscle-building exercises will give your legs and belly a leaner appearance.
Change Your Diet
Create a calorie deficit by consuming fewer calories than your body burns. Don't remove all fatty foods in one fell swoop; you actually need some healthy fats to keep your body functioning. Instead, aim for healthier unsaturated fats, and limit your intake of unhealthy saturated fats to less than 10 percent of your total calories per day. Do your best to eliminate trans fats from your diet entirely.
Reducing added sugar and highly processed foods — which have plenty of calories, but little nutritional value — will also help. Shifting your focus to tasty foods that have high nutrient values, such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds, will help you trim that belly fat away.
Also, there's no need to lower the amount of calories you consume to an unrealistic level. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020, offers a range of calorie estimates determined by age, gender and activity level; you can use that excellent resource as a starting point for a "reasonable" calorie goal.
Read more: Recommended Calorie Intake for Weight Loss
Smaller Is Better
Increase your metabolism by eating small, frequent meals and snacks. Combine protein and complex carbs with each meal and eat every two to three hours. This will also keep your appetite under control. Cottage cheese with chopped-up fruit and sunflower seeds mixed in is a healthy snack and can keep you going until lunch or dinner.
Cardio Is King
Stomach and thigh fat responds to the fat-burning effects of cardiovascular exercise. Do any form of cardio as long as it is at a moderate to high intensity. Rowing, running, elliptical training, swimming, kickboxing, inline skating and brisk walking are examples. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 to 300 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous cardio a week to lose weight. Exercise a few times during the day if you don't have time to do it all at once.
Execute leg exercises that work all your major muscles. The quadriceps, hamstrings and calves are the major muscles in the legs. Do exercises such as squats, step-ups, lunges, leg presses and calf raises to target these muscles. Perform 10 to 12 reps and three to five sets.
Work your legs three days a week on the alternating days of your cardio. You will not notice a reduction of fat in your upper legs by performing thigh-fat-burning exercises so much as an increase in muscle unless you adhere to a clean and nutritious diet as well.
Lose the Jelly Belly
Perform abdominal exercises for your entire stomach area, which includes the lower abs, obliques and upper abs. The obliques are on the sides of the stomach. Incline crunches, alternating leg raises, side crunches, Russian twists and stability ball sit-ups are examples. Aim for 15 to 20 reps, do three or four sets and work out three days a week. Do your ab exercises right after your leg exercises.
- Harvard Health Publishing: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Losing Weight
- Health.gov: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition: Chapter 4. Active Adults
- ExRx.net: Waist Exercises
- Health.gov: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Chapter 1. Key Recommendations