How to get lean, sexy legs

The lure of sexy legs is irresistible, so follow our tips to achieve shapely, toned limbs fast.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
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The lure of sexy legs is irresistible, so follow our tips to achieve shapely, toned limbs fast.

The perennial appeal of the miniskirt reflects the undying attractiveness of legs. Well-toned legs are guaranteed to turn heads – and to add strength and spring to your stride. Some women are fortunate enough to have shapely, well-proportioned limbs; others have to work hard to make the best of what they’ve got. But great-looking legs are within everyone’s grasp. Follow these tips on strengthening, shaping, toning and style, and you’ll soon be stepping out with confidence!


Exercise is the key to good-looking legs. The basic shape of your legs may be determined by your genes, but legs are one of the easiest parts of the body to reshape – and it doesn’t take long for results to become apparent. Exercise burns fat, and tones and defines muscle, giving legs a slimmer, shapelier contour. Activity helps to break down cellulite, too, by improving circulation and speeding the elimination of wastes from sluggish, fatty areas such as the hips and thighs.

Improving circulation to the legs also helps to prevent or slow down the development of varicose veins. There are many effective ways to slim and shape the legs – walking, swimming, weight training, aqua aerobics, water sports, cycling, spinning, stair climbing, Step, yoga or dance classes; or sports such as netball, tennis or skating. Make sure that your workout programme includes at least 20 minutes of aerobic activity, three or more times a week; plus exercises for strengthening and toning.

Gym work

Unless you're on a heavy training schedule, you shouldn't find that working with weights builds bulky legs. To develop and maintain a lean, toned shape, keep weights light and repetitions up. Try a few different exercise programs till you find the one that works well for you. You may have to work out for a few months before you see results, but you'll start to feel different almost straight away.


It’s a simple, safe, enjoyable and effective way to burn fat and tone leg muscles. A brisk walk burns up around 239 kcal per hour; fast or uphill walking burns two to three times that amount – as much as jogging, without the strain. Walking tightens and tones hips and legs; walking uphill (or on an incline, if you’re using a treadmill) will also tone the bottom and upper thigh muscles. To get the aerobic benefits, you should walk for at least 20 minutes nonstop.

Stair climbing

Forget about catching the lift – you should always walk up the stairs. In just 10 minutes of stairclimbing (or hillwalking, or rock climbing, if you are the outdoor type), you’ll burn around 70 kcal. And if you don’t come across enough steep ascents in your daily life, simulate them by using a step machine. It’s great for calves, thighs, bottom – and stair climbing gives you a good cardiovascular workout, too.


The following are exercises for strengthening and toning different parts of the leg. Build up repetitions according to your own fitness level – aim for muscle fatigue, but stop as soon as you feel a burning sensation. Remember: These exercises will only tone muscle – they won’t shift fat.

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1. Inner thigh toner

Lie on side, bottom leg straight, top leg bent and crossed over it. Slowly lift and lower bottom leg, keeping knee facing the front. Repeat 20 times each side.

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2. Outer thigh shaper

Lie on side, torso held firm, weight supported on elbow, bottom leg bent slightly. Slowly lift and lower top leg, keeping leg straight and knee to foot, hips aligned. Repeat 20 times each side.

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3. Buttock and hip tightener

Kneel, resting torso weight on forearms. Bend one leg and raise it to hip height, foot flexed. Slowly raise and lower leg from floor to a position where the thigh is parallel to the floor no higher. Repeat 20 times each side.

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4. Buttock and hamstring strengthener

Lie on floor, knees bent, feet apart, pelvis tucked under, stomach in. Squeeze cheeks of buttocks together tightly, raise bottom till thighs are parallel to floor, then lower. Repeat 10 times. Then raise buttocks and hold, pushing upwards, 10 times.

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5. Quad (front of thigh) toner

Stand with legs slightly wider than hips, feet parallel. Suck stomach in and squat until knees are at a 90 degree angle to calves. Lower for count of 8, hold for 10, then rise for 8. Repeat with knees and feet in “turned-out” position.

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6. Lunges

Keep your upper body straight. Step forward with one leg, lowering hips till both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle, with front knee directly above your ankle, and other knee not touching the floor. Repeat 10 times, then switch legs.

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Cameron Diaz : “The only leg exercise I get is walking in stilettos… but I think that’s enough to give me nice legs.”

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Jennifer Lopez : “To create definition between my legs and backside, my trainer makes me do ‘dead lifts’ – holding a heavy bar at my thighs and lowering it to the floor.”

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Christ ina Aguilera : “I keep my legs in shape with a daily treadmill and circuittraining routine. I like legs that aren’t pencilthin but are in good shape.”

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Gwen Stefani : “Girls who don’t work up a sweat just don’t get toned legs. And boy, I work up a sweat every day.”

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Jennifer Anist on : “I really look after them with a tough daily exercise routine which involves leg-burning elliptical workouts and Hatha yoga.”

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Sharon Stone : “People have asked how I stay in shape so many times over the years. So maybe I should tell them. I still do pushups and sit-ups. But I also try to do things like walking up stairs and not taking an escalator or elevator.”

Cycling or Spinning

Cycling not only gets you from A to B in an environmentally sound fashion, it’s also a wonderful way to tone thighs, strengthen hamstrings and firm flabby buttocks. Cycling is an effective fat burner too: Slow cycling burns around 240 kcal per hour; fast cycling, 260 – 590 kcal per hour. If you don’t feel like braving the traffic, you can use a stationary bike to get similar benefits.


Yoga is based upon postures that gently, but persistently, work deep, intrinsic muscles, joints and ligaments to affect your weight and shape, as well as the functioning of your endocrine glands, organs, circulatory and respiratory systems. Yoga helps eliminate toxins and corrects hormonal imbalances, improving skin tone, reducing cellulite and smoothing contours. It also helps strengthen and tone internal and external muscles and realigns the whole body. The result is a leaner, stronger and more supple body, and greatly improved health and vitality. Your legs should become sleeker after three to six months of regular yoga classes.


One of the latest workout routines gaining popularity, Barre classes incorporate postures inspired by ballet, yoga and Pilates. These three disciplines work together to develop lean muscle, while improving flexibility and balance. Using the traditional ballet barre as a prop, routines focus on isometric strength training to tone, lift and burn fats – all at once. Stretching segments additionally help create long, lean muscles sans the bulk. Plus, you don’t even need prior dance experience to begin. Check out WeBarre ( and Upside Motion ( for classes.

Step classes

“The problem for most women is they're carrying too much weight in the legs. Rather than more floor exercises, they need aerobic activity which is fat burning and weight bearing,” says fitness instructor Joanne Russell. “Step class fits the bill – it’s the most powerful leg-shaping and toning class ever invented!” In a Step class, jarring, joint-stressing jumps and jerks are replaced by simple but strenuous stepping, using an adjustable block.

You step up and down constantly for 60 minutes, working every major muscle group, especially those in the hips and thighs. In one class, you can burn as many calories as you would on an 11 km jog. Bonus: You don’t build bulky muscles; instead, you develop a lean, athletic shape with welldefined muscles and no excess fat.