Losing fat in the legs and thighs can involve a combination of exercises that tone the leg muscles and general changes to support weight loss.

Everyone has some leg fat, but the amount varies from person to person.

It is not possible to lose weight in just one area of the body, but certain exercises can tone and strengthen the legs. Meanwhile, these exercises and other strategies can reduce body fat overall.

In this article, we look at ways to tone the leg muscles and reduce body fat. Using a combination of the following techniques will be most effective.

a bunch of people doing squats in order to lose leg fat. Share on Pinterest
Multi-joint exercises, such as squats, are a good way to tone the muscles in the legs.

Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce body fat, including leg fat.

In one small study, for example, researchers asked volunteers to do 960–1,200 leg press repetitions three times a week for 12 weeks, using just one leg. The results indicated that the training was effective in reducing fat mass all over the body, not just in the leg used.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommend that a person does a combination of strength training and aerobic exercise to receive the most benefits.

Strength training involves performing exercises against resistance to build strength and muscular endurance.

A person may, for example, use dumbbells or resistance bands. Strength training builds lean body mass and may help decrease body fat.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommend performing 8–10 multi-joint exercises two or three times a week. Multi-joint exercises work various muscles at the same time, burning more calories and encouraging weight loss.

Multi-joint strength training exercises that can help tone and define the leg muscles include:

  • squats
  • deadlifts
  • lunges
  • leg presses
  • hamstring curls

Aerobic exercise is cardiovascular training that increases the heart rate and breathing rate. It includes activities such as:

It might involve exercising at a steady pace or at high- and low-intensity intervals.

Aerobic exercise burns calories, which can promote overall fat loss, and it can strengthen the heart and lungs.

One small study assessed the effectiveness of sprint interval running on reducing fat mass. They found that this was particularly effective in young female participants, who reduced their body fat by 8%, on average, after running sprints three times a week for 6 weeks.

No specific diet is best for reducing leg fat. In general, a person loses weight if they burn more calories than they take in, and healthful foods, such as fruits and vegetables, usually have fewer calories.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend eating:

  • a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains, such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread
  • protein from a range of sources, which may include beans, nuts, seeds, lean meats, and eggs
  • healthful oils, such as olive oil and nut oils

Also, eating plenty of high-fiber foods can help with weight loss. The body takes longer to digest these foods, so they make a person feel fuller for longer.

Many people looking to lose weight turn to low-carbohydrate diets, which emphasize foods that have few carbs and are rich in protein and healthful fats.

Investigations into whether low-carb diets are more effective than others at promoting weight loss have returned mixed results, but some research supports their effectiveness.

One randomized control trial, for example, found that people following a low-carb diet saw a more significant reduction in weight than those on a low-fat diet.

It is worth noting that a healthful diet boosts well-being in many ways. Read more about the benefits of healthful eating here.

Alcohol intake can contribute to weight gain because alcoholic drinks often contain high numbers of calories and provide no nutritional value.

In addition, drinking large amounts of alcohol can lead to unhealthful dietary choices, such as overeating. Avoiding overconsumption may help prevent weight gain and reduce unwanted leg fat.

High levels of stress can damage health in various ways, including leading to changes in appetite, overeating, and excess weight gain.

One 2017 study found that participants with higher levels of baseline stress gained more weight over 6 months than those with lower stress levels.

Finding ways to relax, such as meditation, deep breathing, box breathing, and relaxation exercises may help combat this issue.

Not getting enough sleep may increase the likelihood of gaining weight.

Sleep regulates various hormones, including those that affect hunger. The hormones leptin and ghrelin, for example, which help regulate appetite, are both affected by a lack of sleep.

Sleep deprivation causes an increase in ghrelin, which stimulates the appetite, and it decreases the production of leptin, a hormone that usually reduces hunger.

Getting enough sleep can help regulate hormone production. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend 7–9 hours a night.

Liposuction is a surgical option for removing unwanted body fat.

If a person is unable to lose a desired amount of weight through exercise, dietary strategies, and other lifestyle factors, they may wish to speak to a doctor about this option.

The procedure involves:

  • administering an anesthetic
  • injecting a solution to reduce localized blood loss and swelling
  • using high-frequency vibration to break up fat cells
  • using a tube and vacuum to break up and remove fat through one or more small incisions
  • draining off excess blood and fluid
  • closing the incisions and applying a dressing

The procedure takes 1–3 hours, and the person may need to spend the night in the hospital.

It is worth noting that liposuction works best for people who plan to maintain a healthy weight.

Learn more about liposuction here.

Costs and where to have it done

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the average cost of liposuction in 2019 was $3,548 — not including the costs of anesthesia, operating room facilities, and other expenses.

The total also depends on the experience of the surgeon, where the operation takes place, and the type of procedure.

Health insurance usually does not cover liposuction, but some surgeons offer financing plans.

A tool on the ASPS’ website can help a person find a surgeon in their area.

It is not possible to reduce fat in just one area of the body, but lowering body weight, in general, can reduce fat in the legs.

Overall, the best strategy is to combine strength training, aerobic exercise, dietary changes, and other adjustments to support a more healthful lifestyle.

Find more tips for successful weight loss.

There are various ways to tweak the diet so that it contains fewer calories and more nutrients. Anyone interested in losing weight should speak with a healthcare provider about the most suitable option.