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Whether you choose to lunge your way to lean legs or take a hint from your inner ballet dancer, a few simple exercises can turn those lumpy legs into shapely gams. But don’t forget that spot reduction is only moderately effective. Even if you exercise your thighs for several hours every week, you won’t see the resulting tight and toned muscles if there’s a layer of fat sitting on top of them. If you’ve got some extra weight to lose, you’ll need to add regular cardio exercise and a healthy diet into your thigh-toning plan. Always consult your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen.

Squat Variations

According to “Fitness” magazine, there’s no better exercise for the inner thighs than the simple squat. This exercise involves standing with your feet roughly shoulder width apart and then bending your knees to a 90-degree angle as you drop your bottom toward the ground. The key is to avoid bending forward, which reduces the move’s effectiveness.

If you’re not quite ready for the traditional squat exercise, make it a bit easier by positioning a large exercise ball between your lower back and a wall. As you bend your knees, allow the ball to roll up your back (it provides additional support). If traditional squats are too boring for your fitness routine, make them more interesting by explosively jumping off the ground between squats. Or, squeeze a medium-size ball between your inner thighs as you squat.

Alphabet Toes

Although the name might sound as innocent as a child’s game, this reclining exercise is extremely effective for tightening the inner and outer thighs. Lie on your back on a cushioned exercise mat with your arms resting at your sides. Keep your left leg on the ground and extend your right leg toward the ceiling, toes pointed. Trace the letters of the alphabet in the air with your pointed toes. Play around with the size of the letters, but be sure to keep your hips on the ground. Once you reach your limit — and you may not make it through all 26 letters at first — switch sides and repeat with the left leg.

Sun Salutation

The traditional sun salutation in a yoga sequence has a heavy focus on the thighs. And with regular practice, you’ll likely find that your thighs are not only tighter and more toned, but also more flexible. The sun salutation begins in mountain pose, standing with your feet together and arms extended overhead, palms together. On an exhale, dive forward and bend at the hips to bring your fingers or palms to the ground on the outsides of your feet. If you’re not very flexible, you may need to bend your knees.

From the forward bend position, straighten your knees and raise your torso to the height of your waist — this should create a flat back. Bend your knees once more, bringing your hands back to the ground at shoulder width. Jump or step your feet back until your legs are fully extended behind you — this is a plank position. Spread your fingers on the ground and shift your weight backwards, lifting your hips toward the ceiling and reaching your tailbone toward the sky. Hold this downward-facing dog position for several breaths.

Complete the sequence by lowering your hips back to plank position and jumping or stepping your feet back to your hands. After straightening your legs, slowly return to a standing position by rolling up one vertebrae at a time.

Cardio Ideas

Your cardio workout can do more than just help you lose weight and strengthen your heart. Depending on the activity you choose, it can also potentially help strengthen and tone your thighs. While jogging is a good option, taking your run to a very steep hill is an even better idea. “Fitness” magazine suggests sprinting or speed-walking up a steep hill five to 10 times, slowly walking down the hill between each set to allow your heart rate to recover. Climbing stairs is also a great option. Torch even more calories by using high-intensity intervals; separate one-minute sprints with one-minute slow climbs. Again, consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen.

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