The “key” to slimmer thighs

January 09, 2018

Over the past decade we’ve worked with hundreds of women who want leaner, slimmer legs but don’t know how to get started and what really works.  

A lot of contradictory beliefs exist about what it takes to slim your thighs (e.g. spot reduction, strength training, running), not to mention the thousands of too-good-to-be-true products (e.g. gels, pills, suction cups, massaging do-hickeys) that promise slimmer thighs in just minutes every day.

To escape the pull of these quick-fix fads, and save your hard-earned money, you need to know the four reasons why women carry weight in their thighs and why that weight is so difficult to lose.


  1. 4 reasons why women carry weight in their thighs
  2. What to do to get slimmer thighs
  3. Sample Program

i. 4 reasons why women carry weight in their thighs and why that weight is so difficult to lose

Reason 1: Genetics

Reason #1 - Genetics

Genetics play a significant role in defining where we store weight (e.g. in thehips and thighs versus more evenly throughout the body). But did you know that only a very small percentage of women, as small as 5% according to one source, possess the “ideal” body type we see on the covers of magazines and on Instagram? However, because of the way this ideal body type is portrayed, we tend to assume that we should all strive to meet this ideal.

All this is to say, there’s no one ideal body type we should shoot for; being “slim” has different meanings for different body types. Fortunately, despite their significant role, your genetics are not your destiny, and with the right plan you can become the best version of “slim” for you.


Reason 2: Nutrition

Reason #2 - Your nutrition

Weight gained in your thighs is always partially tied to your nutrition. This is a good thing. You can’t control your hormones, food sensitivities, or genetics. Nutrition, however, is a factor you can control in shaping your thighs.


Reason 3: Hormones

Reason #3 - Hormones (This is a big one!)

When it comes to losing weight, hormones act like door keys - they open the doors to let fat (triglycerides) exit the fat cells. The more triglycerides that exit, the smaller the fat cells, and the slimmer one’s thighs become. However, studies show that the locks on the fat cells to your thighs require a different type of key than the fat cells in other areas of your body.

For the purpose of simplicity, let’s say the locks on your arms require key A, while those on your thighs require key B.

Unfortunately, studies also show that only certain types of exercise enable key B while other more common types of exercise only enable key A. More on the specific types of exercise in a moment.


Reason 4: Bloodflow

Reason #4 - Blood flow

Have you ever noticed that your hips and thighs tend to run colder than other parts of your body? 

If so, you’ve experienced the effect of blood flow on weight loss in your thighs (See this study). Referring to the hormones mentioned in reason #3, when keys A or B open the door to the fat cells and release the triglycerides, your blood flow carries these triglycerides away to be “burned” somewhere else in the body.

Studies have shown that poor blood flow means those triglycerides stay right where they are and get reabsorbed back into the fat cells. Or worse, areas that have better blood flow, like your arms, carry the triglycerides to areas of poor blood flow, like your thighs, where they get stuck. This is why some women, while dieting, notice their thighs getting bigger as their arms get smaller.

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II. What to do about it

The good news is that the right combination of exercise and nutrition can absolutely help you beat your genetics and become your most body-confident you!


Starting with nutrition, the first and simplest step is to eat slightly fewer calories. I say “slightly” because 1200 calories is usually too few for most women to effectively tackle the exercise portion of this thigh-slimming program.

How many calories should you eat? Generally, for this type of program, you need to eat roughly 75% of the calories you eat to maintain your current weight. While many online tools can help you calculate 75% of your maintenance calories, such as myfitnesspal, one quick-hand way of calculating it is to multiply your body weight by 10 to 12 - 10 if you’re more sedentary (e.g. seated job, more than 2 hours of TV daily, etc.) and 12 if you lead a more active lifestyle (e.g. physically active job, 1 hour of TV or less daily, consistent exercise routine, etc.).

Example: 150 lbs x 12 (active lifestyle) = 1,800 calories

However, if you’re using food labels to help figure out how many calories you’re consuming, know that not all food labels are accurate and might be off by as much as plus or minus 25% according to one source. So if you’re reducing your calories and not losing weight, or worse, gaining weight, you may want to consider trying calorie control instead of calorie counting since calorie counting can be fairly imprecise.


Earlier I mentioned that only certain types of exercise allow key B (the key that opens the door to thigh fat cells) to be used. That type of exercise is known as high-intensity interval training, or HIIT. HIIT involves quick, intense bursts of exercise at 100% effort, followed by short recovery periods.

Adrenaline, in short, is key B. HIIT releases more adrenaline than other types of exercise, like distance running. To be truly effective in slimming your thighs you need to alternate between periods of all-out effort and short rest periods 14 times or more per workout.

HIIT takes care of reason #3 (accessing the right key to open the doors to the fat cells in your thighs), but what about reason #4 - blood flow?

It turns out, the best exercise for increasing blood flow is cardio, or longer, low-intensity exercise.

I already mentioned that some women notice their thighs getting bigger as their arms get smaller. If you are experiencing this, it isn’t an illusion or in your head. If you’re dieting and doing a lot of cardio, blood flow increases and can move triglycerides from your arms to your legs where it gets stuck. This is why for most women, solely using the diet-and-cardio combination isn’t the optimal solution for thigh slimming.

The perfect time for a brisk walk or light jog is after a good HIIT session, when the triglycerides are released from your thighs. This increases blood flow and moves the triglycerides to places on your body where they can be “burned.”

III. Sample program

Putting this all together, a sample program for slimming your thighs might look like this:

  • Mountain climbers for 20 seconds all out, rest 10 seconds, repeat 8 times.
  • Air squats for 20 seconds all out, rest 10 seconds, repeat 8 times.
  • Brisk walk for 30 minutes.

The Road to Slimmer Thighs

Would you like help with this? Come try a Delta Life Fitness class for free.

Not only are the workouts designed to optimize fat loss with HIIT, but we also add a toning component so you can slim down and tone up all in one 30-minute session. Not to mention…the workouts are never exactly the same, so even though they’re challenging, they’re also fun!

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