BEST DAILY PRACTICES
Aerobic activity like walking is one of the best ways to tone and strengthen your legs. Walk whenever you can – walking a couple of extra bus stops, round the park at lunchtime or resolve to use the stairs instead of the elevator. Make your walks longer at weekends – fresh air and exercise are a great combination for positivity and you get fitter, try jogging or running as well as walking.
The more you walk, the stronger and fitter you get and the further your legs will take you. Find a steep hill and try sprinting up it one day instead of walking up. Hill sprints put your legs to work: this powerful exercise will build muscle strength and improve your running stride.
To get the max out of breaking up a walk with a sprint, do 4 to 6 sets of 10- to 20-second sprints. Take 3 minute breaks.
Dancing is a fun and fast way to tone your legs. It also increases your heart rate, improves balance and enhances flexibility. How about making this the year you take dance lessons – bit of rumba or jive? Even guided country line dancing will boost fitness. Or just turn on some music at home and move!
Jumping rope doesn’t just help with balance and tone, it also sculpts your leg muscles, works the calves and increases your heart rate.
To start, jump rope for 20 seconds straight. Aim for 60 seconds over time.
The best kind of jumping you can do, however, is on a rebounder or mini trampoline. There are many benefits to be reaped from this. First, it increases lymphatic flow which helps to get rid of body toxins. Lymphatic flow relies completely on our conscious movement. Rebounding on a trampoline is a whole body exercise, and it may cause the lymphatic valves to open and close simultaneously which will cause increase lymph flow as much as 15 times. In doing this it increases body detoxification, improves functioning of the immune system and helps reduce cellulite.
Rebounding also strengthens the skeletal system and increases bone mass and oxygen circulation, leading to increased cell energy.
While many cardiovascular exercises exert excess pressure on the joints, feet and legs, jumping or jogging on a trampoline is more effective because you can exercise for a longer period of time without feeling tired or putting pressure on your joints. The G-force produced by jumping on a trampoline also improves body tine and exercises the entire body.
Sitting all day can contribute to muscle loss and weakness in the legs.
To keep your legs strong, try to stand up every 20 to 40 minutes. You can also stretch or do exercises every 60 to 90 minutes.
Sleep is a major part of muscle recovery. During deep sleep, the body releases hormones that repair cells and tissue. More sleep will only ever be beneficial.
BEST PRACTICES AT THE GYM
1. Pause & hold
When you do leg exercises, pause and contract your muscles. This contraction further engages the muscles, which helps maintain strength. You can do this with many types of moves, including squats and bridges.
2. Rest your legs
Don’t overwork your legs. This can slow down recovery and weaken muscle. Instead, let your legs rest. This will allow time for your muscles to repair and get stronger.
3. Use your non-dominant leg
Occasionally, lead with your non-dominant side. This is good to do when you walk or climb stairs. Otherwise, if you always lead with your dominant leg, you might develop muscular imbalances.
4. Use a foam roller
For optimal recovery, do foam roller exercises for the legs. It can loosen tight muscles and realign tissue. Using a foam roller also improves overall exercise performance.
BEST PRACTICES IN NUTRITION
1. Stay hydrated
Right up there on the shortlist of best practices for your legs. Drinking water – and never less than a litre a day – supports your lymph, so helps it to carry toxins out of your system which prevents congestion around the fat cells (which causes cellulite) and the heaviness that comes with fluid retention.
The body stores carbohydrates as glycogen. During exercise, it uses glycogen as energy. Poor hydration also speeds up glycogen use. So try to stay hydrated when you work out and during the day, especially in hot weather.
2. Eat enough calories
Calories are key for building muscle. They provide energy and maintain strength in your legs and body. If you don’t eat enough calories you’ll feel tired, irritable and cold, you won’t sleep well and feel constantly hungry. It’s no fun running on empty and it does nothing for your wellbeing.
3. Eat a well-rounded diet
Both protein and carbohydrates are important to your diet in balance. A protein-high diet can be helpful in keeping you trim, but the carbohydrates you get from vegetables are also key. Try to avoid white carbohydrates – starch, like potatoes and pasta, along with sugar.
4. Avoid added sugars
Foods with added sugar provide low-quality calories and this may contribute to unwanted weight gain in the legs. So keep the sugar intake down – and that includes sugar-sweetened drinks, breakfast cereals and processed food – and eat more fresh, home-cooked food.