How to Reduce Leg Size & Arm Size Through Exercise

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A fit woman resting at the side of the pool after a swim. (Image: 4774344sean/iStock/Getty Images)

Well-defined arms and legs can be your best accessories, but if you have excess fat covering your muscles, it will take some work to achieve your goal. In addition to eating a sensible, reduced-calorie diet, aerobic exercise and strength training can help reduce your total body fat. When this happens, the fat in your problem areas also will reduce.

Cardio Exercise to Burn Calories

The American Heart Association recommends doing 30 to 60 minutes of moderate cardio on most days of the week to burn calories and lose weight. Arm- and leg-engaging cardio can include swimming, rowing, jogging or walking while pumping your arms back and forth, or using an elliptical machine with moving handles. Incorporating high-intensity intervals into three days can optimize calorie and fat burn. For instance, jog for two minutes, then sprint for one minute. Continue to alternate between the intensities for 15 minutes.

Strength Training to Maintain Muscle

Two or three, 30-minute strength-training sessions per week can prevent the loss of lean muscle mass. This is essential to weight loss, because lean muscle tissue burns more calories than fat to sustain itself; you'll burn more calories even when you're resting. For optimal muscle stimulation and caloric burn, work all major muscle groups including your arms, legs, back, chest, shoulders, hips and abs. Perform exercises such as chest presses, planks and crunches, squats, bent-over rows, biceps curls and overhead presses.

Targeted Exercises to Add Definition

As part of your strength-training routine, targeted leg and arm exercises can ensure that when your body fat reduces, toned muscles will show. Because muscle tissue is denser than fat, you'll lose inches, making your arms and legs appear slimmer. Understand that solely doing these exercises won't make you lose fat in your problem areas; that requires a full-body approach. Arm exercises can include biceps curls, hammer curls, triceps dips, triangle pushups and triceps kickbacks, while leg exercises can include step-ups, walking lunges, front and back squats, wall squats with a stability ball and dead lifts.

Things to Consider

Not changing your diet while you attempt to reduce your weight can sabotage your results. You can gain back the calories you burn by eating an unhealthy diet. It takes a deficit of 500 calories per day to lose 1 pound of fat in a week. Eating smaller servings, and replacing high-calorie snacks with healthy, low-calorie alternatives, can be a good start. Get your nutrients from low-fat protein, whole grains, fruits, reduced-fat dairy and veggies. For safety purposes, consult a doctor before starting a weight-loss program and always warm up with five to 10 minutes of low-intense cardio before exercising.

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