The best cardio to slim thighs is the one that you will do consistently, whether that's walking, running or dancing. Regular exercise along with a healthy, calorie-controlled diet is the only way to blast stubborn thigh fat. If you can kick up the intensity a few notches, you'll burn even more fat.
Both long-duration steady state cardio and brief intense cardio burn thigh fat when you do them regularly.
Calorie Deficit With Cardio
Aside from its myriad health benefits, cardio's main function is to burn calories. When you burn excess calories and trim calories from your diet, you create the calorie deficit necessary for fat loss. In a calorie deficit, your body uses more calories than you consume each day, which causes it to draw on stored energy, part of which is in the form of fat.
The larger the deficit you create, the more fat you'll shed and the faster you'll see results. According to the Mayo Clinic, creating a daily deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories daily will help you burn 1 to 2 pounds of fat a week.
You can decide how much cardio will contribute to the deficit and how your diet will play a role. You might decide that you can burn 400 calories a day through cardio and cut 600 calories a day from your diet. Then you'll meet that 1,000-calorie-a-day goal.
Weight loss is a little more complex than that, and many factors play a role in how quickly you burn fat. However, this provides an outline of the concept of a calorie deficit, which you will have to maintain if you want to thin your thighs.
Your Cardio Quota
No matter what type of cardio you choose, you have to do enough of it to see results. How much you need to do depends on your diet and the type of cardio you're doing. If you do less intense activities, such as brisk walking, you will have to do more cardio than if you run to see the same results.
That's because the more intense the activity, the harder your muscles and heart have to work and the more energy your body uses up. For example, according to Harvard Health Publishing, a 155-pound person burns varying calorie amounts doing various moderate-intensity activities for 30 minutes.
- Brisk walking (4 mph) burns 167 calories.
- Ballroom dancing burns 205 calories.
- Water aerobics burn 149 calories.
- Low-impact aerobics burn 205 calories.
- A stationary bike at a moderate pace burns 260 calories.
That same person will burn more calories doing vigorous exercises for the same amount of time.
- Running (6 mph) burns 372 calories.
- Swimming laps burns 372 calories.
- A stationary bike burns 391 calories.
- High-impact step aerobics burn 372 calories.
- Jumping rope burns 372 calories.
How many calories you burn also depends on your weight (heavier people burn more), the climate, the terrain and other factors. You can wear a heart monitor or fitness tracker while you work out to get a more exact number that you can keep track of.
As a baseline, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends all adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. If you're just starting out with an exercise program, this is a good goal to try to meet or exceed for your first few weeks.
After that, the HHS says you can reap even more fat loss benefits by increasing your weekly goal to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise. You can also do more than this if you have time. The more you do, the more you'll burn.
Best Cardio to Slim Thighs
But who isn't short on time these days? It's at the top of the list of reasons why people don't get their cardio in and don't lose the weight. If you don't have time to linger in the gym for hours each day, you have to make every minute count.
As previously mentioned, the best way to do that is to increase exercise intensity. But not everyone can keep up a running pace of 6 mph for 30 minutes. Trying to do that often results in pooping out after the first 10 minutes and walking the rest of the way.
That's where a type of cardio training called high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, comes in handy. HIIT involves alternating periods of intense effort with periods of recovery at a slower pace. Think running sprints at a track.
Although there is no concrete evidence that HIIT is more effective than moderate steady-state cardio for burning fat, according to a meta-analysis published in Obesity Reviews in May 2017, it is more time efficient. Because you can get your heart rate very high during the intense intervals, you burn more calories overall in a shorter amount of time than jogging along at a steady pace for 30 minutes.
There may be a slight benefit to HIIT workouts after you've finished your workout. Due to the intense nature of the workout, your body has to exert more energy to repair and recover than with moderate-intensity exercise.
This may slightly increase your metabolism for a short period. However, as Shelley Keating, PhD, a researcher at the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences and co-author of the Obesity Reviews analysis, told MyFitnessPal, the number of calories you'll burn in minimal. Still, any little bit helps.
You can do interval training no matter your fitness level. All you need to do is work as hard as you can during the intense intervals. For some people, this might mean jogging or running at a slower pace, while for others, it may mean sprinting. Aim to gradually increase your effort during the work periods.
Read more: The 'Choose Your Own Adventure' HIIT Workout
Try this HIIT workout for the start: Warm up at an easy pace for five minutes. Increase your pace to a fast run or sprint on the treadmill, bike, stair stepper or rower for 60 seconds, then return to an easy pace for 90 seconds. Continue to cycle through these intervals for 20 minutes, then cool down for five minutes.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines, 2nd Edition"
- Obesity Reviews: "A Systematic Review and Meta‐Analysis of Interval Training Versus Moderate‐Intensity Continuous Training on Body Adiposity"
- MyFitnessPal: "This Is the Best Form of Cardio for Fat Loss"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"