How can I reduce fat from my thighs?

Dr. Mike Clark, DPT

Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to specifically target where your body is going to lose fat (this is a myth known as spot-reduction). With that said, simply doing exercises solely for the legs will not make them leaner and more defined. Reducing fat from your thighs comes down to consuming a diet of nutritious foods that add up to less calories than you burn each day – forcing your body to use stored fat for energy – and incorporating strength training with a total-body focus into your exercise routine. In other words – eat less and move more. To get the biggest bang from your routine, perform total-body strength training exercises such as the Side Lunge, Curl, to 2-Arm Overhead Press (shown below). Exercises like this challenge your legs as well as your upper body and abdominal muscles– turning your body into a calorie burning machine and helping you get that lean, toned look you’re after.

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Without marrying or supporting a plastic surgeon? Spot exercise doesn’t reduce that spot or area—in fact it does the reverse—it builds muscle in that area; but general exercise does. The best way to reduce fat from your thighs or anywhere on your body is a combination of cardio and strength training.  Do the cardio first so you don’t tire yourself out with the strength training. But definitely don’t leave out the strength/resistance exercises. A pound of muscle uses 75 to 150 cals a day whether you consciously use it or not—so building muscle is key to losing weight from exercise.  To work your legs directly, try a seated leg lift, wall-sits, and step taps. 

Check out or YOU: On a Diet for more resistance exercises for your legs.

Spot reduction is one of the biggest fitness myths out there. Unfortunately we cannot dictate where our body loses fat from. In order to lose fat from your thighs you will have to decrease your total body fat. To decrease your total body fat you need to burn more calories than you consume on a regular basis.

High intensity cardio such as interval training is a great way to burn a large amount of calories during a cardio session. However, if you are new to exercise you will want to start out slowly and focus on developing a solid cardio foundation before adding any interval training into your exercise program.

Resistance training is also important. Exercise such as lunges, squats, hip adduction, hip abduction, and step ups will all help tone this trouble area (the thighs), and building more muscle will also help your body burn more calories throughout the day.

Finally, nutrition is extremely important when it comes to trying to decrease body fat. Choosing healthier food options and watching your portion sizes is a must.

Remember, to decrease total body fat you need to burn more calories than you consume. Follow the three steps above and you will be on your way to decreasing the size of those thighs.


In order to reduce fat from your thighs, you will have to consume less calories than you burn. This will force your body to access stored fat to use as energy, thereby reducing fat on your thighs. You might think that you need to do more inner or outer thigh exercises in order to help accomplish this, however that is not the case and is commonly referred to as the "myth of spot reduction". Performing exercises on muscles or areas in where you want to lose body fat will not ultimately result in a reduction of fat from the corresponding area. Instead, you will need to engage in a total-body fat reduction exercise program whereby your whole body will change and you will notice a difference. Where you lose your body fat will primarily be determined by your genetic predisposition, however you have control over the amount of and rate at which you lose body fat. Stored body fat is simply an accumulation of stored calories. Each pound of body fat is 3,500 stored calories, therefore your efforts in losing weight should be centered around creating a caloric deficit or negative caloric balance. This means at the end of each day, you should have burned more calories than you consumed in order to accomplish your goals. A relatively conservative example is for you to create a 500 calorie deficit per day. If your particular body burns 1,800 calories per day and consume 1,300, you have created a deficit of 500 calories per day. At the end of seven days you will have depleted 3,500 calories, or one pound of body fat.
Wendy Batts
Unfortunately there is no such thing as spot reduction. Many believe working leg muscles in the gym will lead to fat reduction in that area. Losing fat in any area is a result of burning more calories than you consume. The best way to achieve this calorie scenario is to incorporate a sensible reduced calorie diet and increase physical activity. That doesn’t mean that you should avoid the leg workouts though! Incorporate lower body exercises to build strength and endurance in your muscles.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.