Many people want to lose fat around their legs. Focusing on exercises that tone the leg muscles, and making lifestyle changes to lose weight, can help people achieve this.

Everyone has some leg fat, and how much a person has varies among individuals. It is, however, more common for females to store fat in their legs than males.

While it is not possible to reduce weight loss in one specific area of the body, people can achieve toned legs by doing exercises that target and strengthen key leg muscles, while reducing 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 muscle in the legs.

According to sports research, it is not possible to target weight loss to just one area of the body. If a person starts losing weight, they tend to do so across their entire body. This means that any weight loss techniques can work for reducing leg fat.

In one small-scale study, researchers asked volunteers to do 960 to 1200 leg press repetitions for 12 weeks using just one leg. The results indicated that the training was effective in reducing fat mass all over the body and not only in the trained leg.

Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce body fat, including leg fat. When developing an exercise program, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends using both strength training and aerobic exercise.

Strength training involves performing exercises against resistance to build strength and muscular endurance. Forms of strength training include using dumbbells, resistance bands, and bodyweight exercises. 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 2–3 times a week. Multi-joint exercises work various muscles at the same time, which burns more calories and encourages weight loss.

Strength training, multi-joint 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:

Aerobic exercise can consist of working at a steady pace or doing intervals, which involves alternating between high and lower intensity. Aerobic exercise burns calories, which may promote overall fat loss.

Regular aerobic exercise also makes your heart and lungs stronger.

One small-scale study assessed the effectiveness of sprint interval running on decreasing fat mass in women. They reported that 15 women who ran sprints 3 times a week for 6 weeks reduced their body fat by 8%.

There is no one specific diet that aids in losing leg fat. In general, a person will lose weight if they use up more calories than they take in. Healthful foods usually have fewer calories, such as fruits and vegetables. The best diet for an individual is one that they can stick with.

For a healthful diet, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend eating:

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

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

Many people turn to low carbohydrate diets, which involve restricting carbs and eating foods high in protein and healthful fats. Studies show mixed results on whether these diets work better than others, but some research suggests low carb diets are effective for weight loss.

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

When people lose weight, they tend to do so all over their body. Some people lose fat in certain areas before others, and this varies between people. Eating a healthful diet will have many health benefits alongside weight loss.

Read more about the benefits of healthful eating here.

Alcohol intake can contribute to weight gain. Alcohol often contains a high number of calories and does not provide nutritional value. Drinking too much can contribute to excessive increases in body fat.

In addition to the calories from alcohol, drinking large amounts of alcohol may also lead to poor nutritional choices, such as overeating. Avoiding overconsumption of alcohol may help reduce weight gain and the development of leg fat.

High stress levels can have adverse effects on a person's health, and that may include excessive weight gain. Stress may lead to changes in appetite and overeating. Chronic stress also affects hormone production, which contributes to weight gain and an increase in fat across the body.

One 2017 study reported that people 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 chronic stress.

Not getting enough sleep may increase a person's chances of gaining weight, including leg fat. Sleep plays a part in the regulation of various hormones, including those that may affect hunger. For example, the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which help regulate appetite, are both affected by lack of sleep.

Sleep deprivation causes an increase in ghrelin, which stimulates the appetite. At the same time, lack of sleep decreases the production of leptin, which reduces hunger. The change in hormone production can lead to overeating and weight gain, resulting in more leg fat.

Getting enough sleep, which the National Sleep Foundation recommend to be 7–9 hours a night, helps regulate hormone production.

It is not possible to reduce fat on the legs alone. However, reducing body weight, in general, can also help decrease leg fat. The best way to lose leg fat is by combining exercise, diet, and a healthful lifestyle. Exercise should include both aerobic exercise and strength training.

Read about more tips for successful weight loss.

Decreasing the number of calories consumed also promotes fat loss. There is a variety of diet approaches available. Individuals concerned about their overall body fat or leg fat should talk with their doctor to determine the best options for losing weight.