Sometimes fat seems to have a GPS that makes it travel to the places where we want it the least. One of these areas, for women in particular, is the upper back thigh. While genetics are mostly to blame for this unwanted phenomenon, there's some indication that lack of activity can indeed usher the fat cells into thigh territory. Time may play a role, too. You probably won't be surprised to learn that fat deposits in the thighs have been associated with aging.
To give your thigh fat the boot, it's far more effective to take a whole body approach that improves your overall fitness than trying to target your efforts to the offending area.
Throwing Fat on the Fire
You can't target a particular area for fat reduction -- not by doing particular exercises and not by eating a particular way. Alas, there's no such thing as spot reduction, so you'll just have to face the music and slim down in general. Lose weight in a healthy way at a measured pace and excess fat will gradually dissolve as your whole body composition becomes leaner.
In the meantime, it's an immutable law of thermodynamics that in order to lose one pound of fat, you must expend more than 3,500 calories more than you take in. The National Institutes of Health recommends one to two pounds a week as a healthy rate of weight loss; lose faster and you're risking rebound weight gain.
The math works out rather neatly. Reduce your food intake by 500 calories a day and you'll lose one pound a week. There are numerous diet plans out there, but in general, extreme diets don't work in the long run. The best diet is one you can stick with, assuming it involves lean protein, whole grains and lots of vegetables. While there's no way to tell your body to lose the thigh fat first, it will eventually subside as your body's overall fat composition wanes.
Move it and Lose It
While weight loss is the first step for losing fat from the back of your upper thighs, it's never too early to start doing exercises that will sculpt and tone the soon-to-be-revealed muscle underneath. Plus, muscle burns more calories than fat, so building muscle sets your body up to stay leaner in the long run.
For the thighs, hamstring curls are a good place to start. There are several variations of this exercise, which strengthens the back of the thighs, and it's a good idea to rotate them. But to keep things in balance, naturally you'll want to mix in exercises that work the whole thigh. Body-weight squats work the whole enchilada from your butt to your shins. Inverted flyers are a whole-body exercise that targets both the front and back of the thighs.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a method of exercise in which bursts of intensive effort -- usually in aerobic exercise -- are followed by a usually longer period of rest or at least an interval of considerably less effort.
There's no set formula, but it works like this: if you're on a treadmill, jam at top speed for 1 minutes and go slow for 2 or 3. Or go hard for 3 minutes and downshift for 6. There's a lot of variation in HIIT protocols, and it's really a matter of experimenting until you find the combinations that work for you.
A growing body of research suggests that HIIT may be more effective for reducing subcutaneous fat than conventional aerobic forms of exercise. A 2011 review of HIIT research in the Journal of Obesity concluded that HIIT training activates certain mechanisms that induce fat loss.
- Journal of Nutritional Health and Aging: SKELETAL MUSCLE FAT INFILTRATION: IMPACT OF AGE, INACTIVITY, AND EXERCISE
- ACE Fitness: Spot Reduction Myth
- NIH: Aim for a Healthy Weight - Facts About Healthy Weight
- New York Times: To Lose Weight, Eating Less Is Far More Important Than Exercising More
- Journal of Obesity: High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss
- ACE Fitness: HIIT