Exercises for Strong, Sculpted Legs

Photo Credit: Exey Panteleev CC-BY-2.0
Regular exercise, like walking and bicycling, can help keep your legs strong and toned. Exercise helps reduce the chance of diseases like osteoartiritis, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Calf raises and leg lifts focus on the lower leg by stretching and strengthening the muscles on the back of your leg below the knee. Strong leg muscles stabilize and protect your knee and ankle joints, which reduces the likelihood of injury and joint pain. Add some calf exercises to your regular exercise routine for strong lower legs. 
Front leg lifts target the muscles that support and stabilize the knee joint. Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out. Lean back on your forearms in a reclining position. Bend your left knee and plant your left foot flat on the floor. Keep your right leg straight with your toes pointed toward the ceiling. Slowly lift your right leg off the floor toward the ceiling. Lift until your leg is about 6 inches off the floor. Hold the lift for 5 seconds and then lower your leg back to the floor. Repeat 10 times with each leg. 
Calf raises strengthen the long muscle on the back of your leg and strengthen the ankle joint. Stand on the balls of your feet on the edge of a stair step or a step-up exercise stool. Allow your heels to hang off the back of the stair. Hold onto the wall or stair rail for support to maintain your balance if necessary. Allow both heels to drop slightly below the level of the stair or stool. Hold the stretch for 2 seconds and then push your body up on the balls of your feet until your heels are above the level of the step. Hold of 2 seconds and return to the start position. Repeat 10 raises, up and then down. 

Exercise to Reduce the Risk of Varicose Veins

Photo Credit: Voyeurproject CC-BY-SA-3.0

Varicose veins are large blood vessels visible just below the skin surface. Women are particularly susceptible to developing varicose veins, but people who stand long hours at work and people with a blood relative who has varicose veins are also at risk to develop varicose veins. Contrary to popular belief, crossing your legs does not contribute to or cause varicose veins. About 80% of those who develop varicose veins inherited the condition. There is no guaranteed way to prevent varicose veins, but you can reduce your risk with regular exercise. Exercise that strengthens the leg muscles and improves circulation is the best way to reduce your risk of developing varicose veins. 
Walking is the easiest way to exercise to develop strong leg muscles and improve your cardiovascular system, including vein strength. Walk daily for at least 15 to 30 minutes. Instead of taking the elevator or escalator, try walking a few flights of stairs every day. 
Elevating your legs and pumping them as if riding a bicycle will help to strengthen the leg muscles and improve circulation in the legs. Lie down on your back and lift your bottom off the floor a few inches with your palms under your buttocks. Pump your legs forward for 20 repetitions and then reverse for 20 repetitions.  Repeat this exercise daily. 
Leg lifts also help to improve blood flow and strengthen the leg muscles. Lie on your back and place your hands, palms down, on the floor on each side of your body. Lift one leg about 12 inches off the floor and hold your leg elevated for 5 seconds. Slowly lower your leg and then repeat with the other leg. Repeat 10 times on each side.

Prevention and Treatment of Shin Splints

Photo Credit: Andrey CC-BY-2.0
Runners. joggers, athletes and others who engage in high-impact aerobic exercise or sports can suffer from shin splints. Shin splints is a painful condition of the tibia and lower leg. The tibia is the large bone in the front of the lower leg, often called the shin bone. Force exerted on the shin can injure the tendons and connective tissues that attach the muscles to the tibia resulting in pain, swelling and sometimes redness. Shin splints can be very painful and may last for a few days to a week. See a doctor if swelling or redness persists and pain does not begin to subside within a few days. You can treat shin splints with ice to reduce the swelling and an over-the-counter pain reliever with an anti-inflammatory like Ibuprofen. 
You can prevent shin splints by taking  a few simple precautions. Wear a shoe designed for the type of activity you want to engage in. Runners and joggers should wear a shoe with a good arch support and enough padding to cushion the impact of the foot hitting the ground. Replace your shoes when they begin to show wear, usually after about 350 miles of wear. If you still experience shin pain, even with a good shoe, consider adding arch supports. A podiatrist can help you select an appropriate size arch support to relieve the stress on  your shin and support your feet comfortably. 
You can reduce the chance of suffering shin splints by cross-training and running on alternate days. Try swimming one day and running the next followed by bicycling before running again. You will help protect your shins from injury. Cross-training is also an excellent way to keep your whole body in shape. Strength train your leg muscles to strengthen the muscle and tendons attached to the shin. Lift weights with your legs and perform crunches and other exercises that will strengthen all the muscles of your legs. 

For more information about shin splints, see:
Mayo Clinic, Shin Splints

No Equipment Thigh Strengthening Exercises

Photo Credit: www.localfitness.com.au

Strong thighs are important for bearing the weight of your body, endurance and balance. Weak or under-developed thigh muscles may be susceptible to injury from exercise. You can strengthen your thighs without the need for equipment. Stretches and jumping exercises can help you strengthen your thighs. 
Kneeling thigh stretches are easy to perform, but don’t let the ease of this exercise fool you! It’s a powerful way to strengthen and tone your thigh muscles. Kneel on the floor or on an exercise mat for comfort. Keep your knees about hip-width apart. Your toes should be pointing at the wall behind you and your weight on your leg from your knees, down your shin and across the top of your foot. Stretch your torso up tall toward the ceiling and squeeze your abdominal muscles. Don’t drop your chin, but keep your head up looking straight ahead. When you are ready, shift your weight back and bring your hips toward your heels. Move your arms back and brace yourself by placing your fingertips on the floor on either side of your legs. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds and then return to the start position. Do 5 to 7 repetitions of this exercise. Increase the length of time you hold the position and the number of repetitions as your strength and endurance increase.  
Jump and reach to stretch your thigh muscles and increase flexibility. Begin by standing in an upright position with your legs hip-width apart and your arms relaxed at your side. Shift your weight back on your hips and lower yourself toward a sitting position, as in a squat. When you feel your heels lift off the floor, reach your arms upward toward the ceiling and push your body upward from your feet, through your legs and thighs in an explosive push toward the ceiling. The momentum of swinging your arms up with a simultaneous push upwards will help you reach high.

3 Exercises for Strong, Toned Legs

Photo Credit: Credit: LocalFitness.com.au
Strong, toned, muscular legs are more than just physically attractive. Strong legs support your body and carry you through the day. Strong legs also improve your balance and posture. If your leg muscles are strong, you are also less likely to suffer sprains and joint pains. 
Try some single leg squats to develop your calf muscles. Stand with your hands on your hips and your feet about hip-width apart. Place your right foot slightly forward from your left foot and shift your body weight to your right foot. Tighten your abs, breathe in and then lift your left foot off the floor about 2 to 3 inches. Slowly lower your body to a sitting position. Keep your weight on your right leg, but you can rest your left toes on the floor for balance and stability, if needed. As you lower your body by bending your right knee, allow your left leg to straighten out and slide forward. Keep your back straight and try not to lean forward as you lower your body. Exhale and push back up to a standing position using your leg. Do 5 squats with each leg. 
Stretch your calf muscle for lean, toned legs. Face a wall about arm-length away and place your feet flat on the floor hip-width apart. Place your palms on the wall about 2 to 3 inches higher than your shoulder height. Step forward with your left leg and keep both feet on the floor. Squeeze your abs, breathe in and move your upper body toward the wall. This will stretch the calf muscle of your left leg (the leg behind). Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, and then push your body back upright. Repeat this exercise 10 times for each leg. 
Stretch the hamstring on the back of your leg by lying on the floor flat on your back in a doorway. Place the back of one leg against the wall straight up from your hip. Allow the other leg to stretch out straight through the doorway. Push against the wall with the back of your leg that is parallel to the wall and point your toes toward the ceiling. Hold the position and then relax. Repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times for each leg.