One of the frustrating things about cardio exercise is it can slim your thighs and shrink your waist, but it doesn’t often produce shapely calves.
In some cases, people notice their butts and thighs taking on a toned appearance with no change in their lower legs at all. The popularity of recumbent cycling, walking on treadmills, and using low-impact aerobics to lose weight and improve cardio-respiratory function could be the problem. If those sound like your favorites, you’ll be happy to know that with a few tweaks to your cardio exercise routine, calves can experience the same improvements as other areas of your body.
The muscles of the calves activate when you raise your heel and push against resistance with the balls of your feet. Most cardio exercises don’t challenge the calves enough to increase muscle tone. But adding an incline or a stepping element creates more work for the calf muscles.
Walking or running at an incline is a great way to target your calves and increase your caloric burn. A person weighing 155 pounds who walks at a brisk pace of 3.5 mph burns around 267 calories in an hour. But, that same person will burn around 422 calories if walking uphill. Raising the incline of a treadmill can mimic hill walking.
Group Exercise Classes
If you prefer to get your dose of cardio exercise from a group exercise class, consider high-impact or step aerobics instead of a low-impact class. Stepping up and down creates more work for the muscles in the front and back of the lower leg. Step aerobics is also a much faster way to lose weight. Low-impact aerobics burns 352 calories per hour for a 155-pound person. Step aerobics burns 598.
For people who love stationary cycles, moving off the recumbent and onto an upright will help the calves. A spin class is even better because there are periods of standing, which puts more weight onto the calves. A good tip to remember is not to lean or shift forward when in a standing position. That puts stress on the knees. Keeping your weight over the front of the saddle puts stress on the muscles, giving the thighs and the calves more to do.
A great exercise to do at home to burn calories and exhaust the calves is jumping rope. You can burn 100 calories in 10 minutes with a jump rope while toning your legs, arms, and shoulders. A jump rope is also cheap and portable, perfect for cardio while traveling or something to do when you don’t feel like allowing other people to see you sweat.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio exercise per week for adults. The CDC also says that a mix of moderate- and high-intensity activity is even better for one’s health. Jumping rope and running qualify as high-intensity exercise while brisk walking and aerobics is more moderate. Mixing up the type of cardio could be more fun and better for your health, not to mention a faster way to shapely legs.
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About the Author
Sarka-Jonae Miller is a personal trainer, massage therapist, novelist, and blogger. Her work has appeared in the Post-Standard newspaper, on NaturalNews.com, on AskTheTrainer.com, and on the New York and Washington Home & Garden online magazines. Get more health and wellness tips on Sarka’s Natural Healing Tips blog, Facebook page, or on Twitter. Sarka-Jonae’s debut novel, Between Boyfriends, recently hit #9 on Amazon’s best seller list for humorous fiction. East County Magazine calls it “the ultimate chick-lit read — a light-hearted romp.” Read free stories by Sarka on Wattpad, including a preview of Between Boyfriends. Learn more about Sarka on her author website and her women’s fiction book blog.