There's no secret to slimming down -- it takes a commitment to exercising and eating healthy. Doing regular cardiovascular exercise and total-body strength training will help you shed calories and build lean muscle; curbing your calorie intake will give you the extra edge. Just keep in mind that there's no such thing as spot reduction -- when you lose weight in your lower body, you'll also lose weight in your upper body.
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Fat Loss 101
You might have a little or a lot to lose. Regardless, the formula for fat loss is the same. You've got to maintain a caloric deficit, meaning you eat fewer calories that you burn every day. This causes your body to burn fat stores, and you slim down.
Lots of factors play a role in how much fat you'll lose and how quickly. Your genetic make up is a factor, and so is your body type. If you are naturally "pear-shaped" -- you carry extra weight in your hips, buttocks and thighs -- it's going to be more difficult to shed fat from those areas. If you remain committed, though, it will happen.
Creating a Deficit
Eat less, exercise more -- that's all you really need to burn more fat from your lower body. Figuring out exactly how much you should eat and exercise to achieve the correct deficit for your goals is complicated. If you're really serious, invest in a session with a registered dietitian who can give you exact numbers. Your physician can also help.
Generally, if you are careful about what you eat and increase your activity level, you'll start to see pounds come off.
Cardio, Cardio, Cardio
If you want to slim down your lower body, you're going to have to do some form of cardiovascular exercise. Elevating your heart rate for a prolonged period of time causes your body to burn calories at a higher rate. Depending on the type of activity you choose and your body weight, you can burn 100 to 600 calories in 30 minutes.
Running, cycling and swimming are some of the best activities for torching calories. Running and cycling work the lower body, strengthening and toning the muscles of the legs. You can also play tennis or soccer, rock climb, hike or even dance. Just get moving!
Aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise most days of the week.
Read more: The Best Way to Lose Weight in One Month
A type of cardiovascular exercise called high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is an effective way to up your calorie and fat-burning potential with each cardio session. Research shows that HIIT mobilizes fat cells for oxidation better than steady state cardio. You can also burn more calories in a HIIT session in less time, and keep burning calories for up to 24 hours after your workout.
Once you have developed a solid base of fitness, you're ready to include one or two of these workouts per week. They're easy to do. Just pick an exercise you like, warm up, then kick your pace into high gear. If you're running on the treadmill, this means breaking into a sprint. Sprint as hard as you can for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, then slow down to a jog or brisk walk. Let your heart rate come down a little during a recovery period lasting about as long as your sprint, then resume your sprinting pace. Repeat the intervals for a total workout of about 20 minutes.
Building Muscle to Slim Down
Many people mistakenly think that strength training makes you bigger and bulky. For most people, moderate resistance training helps burn more fat and makes the lower limbs look more defined and leaner.
Two of the best lower-body exercises are squats and deadlifts. These are compound exercises that activate all the muscles of the lower body in one movement. Use low weight to start and sets of higher reps to tone and define.
Other effective lower-body exercises include step-ups, lunges and hip extensions. Choose three to five lower-body exercises and perform them in a circuit taking little to no rest in between sets. This will burn more calories than performing sets of the same exercise with rest breaks in between.
Although your main goal is to slim your lower body, don't skip upper-body exercises. Building total-body lean muscle mass will help prevent imbalances and rev your metabolism so you burn fat faster.
Watch What You Eat
Eating healthy is a crucial part of slimming your lower body. While cutting calories is good, eating nutritious foods that nourish your body at the same time is even better. Follow these guidelines for slim-down success:
Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. They're high in fiber, water and nutrients and low in calories.
Choose whole grains over refined grains. Whole grains are more nutritious and they digest more slowly, keeping you feeling full for longer.
Eat lean protein. Avoid saturated fats in meat, opting for healthy fats in fish. Other options include lean chicken meat, tofu and beans.
Eat low-fat dairy. Limit cheese and choose skim milk and yogurt. Substitute plant-based options like almond and hemp milk when possible.
Skip the sweets and sugary beverages. High in sugar and lacking nutrients, desserts, candy and sweetened beverages will derail your plans to slim down. Save the occasional dessert or soda for a special treat, but cut out your regular intake.
Read more: 10 Best Foods for Losing Weight