Each of us has parts of the body that tend to hold more body fat than others. And while we can't do much about where our body fat gets distributed, we can take steps to shed some of that fat. Keep in mind that you can't spot reduce body fat; that is, get rid of fat from specific areas with specific exercises. The answer then is to lose body fat all over and strengthen the areas that you want to keep toned. How to do that? A combined diet and exercise approach that will burn more calories than you consume.

On the diet side, you want to start tracking your caloric intake. There are several good apps out there (such as the MyPlate app) that easily monitor calories. Once you've determined your maintenance level, reduce that level by 500 calories a day. This amount will set your weight loss at roughly one pound per week, a level recommended by the Mayo Clinic and other weight loss experts as achievable and sustainable (remember that to burn one pound, you must burn 3,500 calories).

To ensure that your lower calorie diet is nutritious and delicious, focus on nutrient-dense, low calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. Skip low nutrient processed foods and high calorie beverages such as soda and sweetened coffee drinks. And avoid junk food at all cost.

Getting your diet in check is half the equation. The other half involves committing to a weekly cardio and strength training routine that will burn body fat by increasing your caloric expenditure. The cornerstone of this routine should be moderately intense cardio such as walking, jogging, rowing, swimming, or cycling. Strive for at least 30 minutes per session. Add in a couple of high intensity cardio workouts (called HIIT) that alternate stints of all-out effort and recovery periods.

A couple of weight training workouts per week that strengthen your major muscle groups will not only burn calories but also keep your metabolism revved up for hours after the workout. Thirty to forty-five minutes will help you achieve your goals.

Finally, add some specific exercises to strengthen and tone those problem areas such as the lower abdominals and thighs. While these exercises won't burn fat off these areas, they will improve the appearance of the muscles.

Try these three lower ab/inner thigh exercises and see what they can do for you.

• Mountain Climber: From a plank position (push-up stance), squeeze your glutes and engage your core. Then, drive your knees toward your chest one at a time as if running. Keep your butt down and resist the tendency of your hips to rise with fatigue. Perform the mountain climber for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat three or four times.

• Modified Glute Bridge: Lie on your back with knees bent, feet nearly touching your butt and arms at your sides. Place a stability ball or yoga block (or other object) between your thighs. Start by pressing your heels into the floor and drive your hips skyward and squeeze your glutes. Lower back to the floor. Perform three to four sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.

• Modified Goblet Squat: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Place a stability ball or yoga block (or pillow) between your thighs, squeezing it to hold it in place. With your back kept flat and shoulders back, bend at the hips and knees, lowering your butt as if sitting in a chair. Press through your heels to reverse the movement and return to standing. Perform three to four sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.

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