When you put on a pair of shorts or a skirt, do you find yourself feeling self-conscious about your calf size? If so, you're not alone, and you shouldn't feel ashamed. We all want slim, toned calves and sexy, sculpted legs.
While it's not possible to spot reduce through targeted exercises (this is an all-too-common fiction), it is possible to slim your calves through diet and exercise and by losing overall body fat.
Reduce Calf Size With Exercise
First, why do you have big, muscular calves in the first place? This could be due to genetics, excess body fat, improper nutrition or, according to Women's Health, your calves could be bloated due to sitting too much throughout the day, eating too much salt or because of an underlying medical condition.
If you have fat calves because you're not exercising properly and, as a result, you're dealing with excess body fat, this can be remedied through exercise. However, let's get one thing out of the way: Spot reduction is a myth. Meaning: If you're overweight, you can't get a six-pack just by doing situps every day, and the same goes for calf exercises.
If you want to effectively burn fat, lose weight and get slimmer calves, it's crucial to take a whole-body approach when it comes to exercise. As recommended by Harvard Health Publishing, vigorous, higher-intensity activity (during which you're breathing hard and sweating) will help you slim down. A good goal is 30-60 minutes of fat-burning cardio per day. Swimming, dancing and boot camp classes are all great cardio workouts, and doing post-cardio Pilates for calves can help you get longer, leaner muscles.
Change Your Lifestyle Habits
If you're smoking, sitting too much and eating unhealthy foods, changing your lifestyle habits is critical, especially if you want slimmer calves. Remember that overall weight loss should be your goal if you want slender, toned calves; you may need to lose a significant amount of weight from other parts of your body before the fat stores in your calves can decrease.
In terms of your diet, consuming fewer calories than you're burning is the trick to weight loss. And, eating unhealthy foods is a big no-no: According to Dietary Guidelines, a healthy diet includes fruits, grains, a variety of veggies, oils, low-fat (or no-fat) dairy and a variety of proteins (like beans, eggs, lean meat and salmon). Added sugars, sodium, saturated fats and trans fats should be limited as much as possible.
How to Prevent Big Calves
While it's true that spot reduction (reducing fat in one area of the body) is a myth, there are some exercises designed to build calf muscles that you should avoid at all costs if you don't want to beef up your calves even more. This includes exercises like calf raises, box jumping and jumping rope.
In addition, you can prevent your calves from swelling by taking more breaks at work to walk around, drinking more water and consuming less sodium. Just note that, according to the Mayo Clinic, you should seek immediate medical care if your calf swelling is accompanied by chest pain or difficulty breathing; this could be the sign of a blood clot or heart condition.