With the holiday season coming, the jeans come off, the skirts go on and legs come out to play... assuming you're a girl that is! But are you really confident about having your legs on show this Summer? If you want to improve the shape of your pins and give yourself a real confidence boost, here are 5 simple steps that you can easily fit into your everyday routine.
1. Power walking
Walking is great aerobic exercise, but power walking takes it to a whole different level. You get the aerobic, fat-burning benefit of walking, with added muscle toning from the longer, more powerful strides. Power walking is particularly good for toning your bum, hamstrings and calves - all the muscles at the back of your legs. And how do you power walk? Just lengthen your stride and walk like you're late for your best friend's wedding. Just 10 minutes a day will make a real difference, so if you walk to the station or anywhere else on a daily basis, simply pop your trainers on, put your heels in a bag and power walk there!
2. Stair stepping
If power walking is the ultimate exercise for the back of your legs, stair stepping is the ultimate for toning the front. Each 'step' really targets the quadriceps, the group of muscles that make up your thigh. Like power walking, stair stepping doesn't have to be done at the gym. Give up the lift and use the stairs at your office whenever you can. Make a rule at home that you're only allowed to use the upstairs toilet or talk on the telephone upstairs. If you can rack up at least 100 stair steps a day as a routine you'll start to notice your legs slimming and firming up. And remember this quote - "A person's health is to be judge by that which they take two at a time - pills or stairs" - so don't be afraid to double-up!
3. Isometric exercises
Iso-what-ric? I hear you say! Isometric means holding a certain position so the joint is locked. This "static contraction" of the muscle is fantastic for toning and firming, and best of all you'll hardly break into a sweat. This makes isometric exercises something you can easily do at home or at the office - just as long as you're not wearing tight trousers! Three great examples are 'isometric squats' and 'isometric lunges' and 'isometric heels raises'. Simply hold the yourself in the squat, lunge or heel raise position for 20 to 30 seconds, whenever you get the opportunity. Just don't get busted by your boss or he/she will wonder what you're up to! Try to aim for 10 minutes a day in total, and be prepared to feel your legs burn a bit.
4. Eat more protein
Never underestimate the power of good nutrition to change the shape and feel of your body. To tone and firm up any muscles of your body, including your legs, it's important that you have enough good quality protein in your diet. At the end of the day that's what muscle is made from - meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, nuts, beans, pulses, soya, and so on. Not only that, it is well proven that protein helps to suppress the appetite and reduce sugar cravings, so getting enough protein into your lunch and dinner will help you to resist the chocolate bars you've been wearing on your legs all winter! Which leads nicely to the next simple step...
5. Eat less sugar
If you have a high-sugar, high-carbohydrate diet you'll be wearing a nice thick layer of it around your newly toned thighs. We are constantly reminded by the media and doctors that a diet high in fat is the major cause of heart disease, but with all that nagging about fat we often fail to realise that it is actually sugar in our diet that is causing our weight gain - and flabby thigh disease! Drop the biscuits with your tea, clear out your cupboards of chocolate and crisps, and reduce your portions of bread, pasta, potatoes and alcohol. Instead, try to get into the habit of filling up on good quality fruit, yogurt and low-sugar snacks between meals and keep the drinking to the weekends.
So here's your 5 step challenge... (1) 10 minutes of power walking a day, (2) 100 stair steps a day, (3) 10 minutes of isometric exercises a day, (4) add protein to your lunch and dinner, and (5) reduce the amount of sugary carbs in your diet. Soon enough you'll be so proud of your legs you'll be wanting to show them off on your next skiing trip!