How to lose weight from your thighs: 8 ways to slim, tone and strengthen legs

Lose weight from your thighs with exercises, food swaps and smart fitness kit that'll help you tone up

Woman doing squats outside
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The first thing you need to know when you're searching how to lose weight from your thighs, is that you're really searching for how to a) lose weight in general and b) build muscle on your thighs. "Spot reducing" fat is, unfortunately, not really a thing. But while you can't necessarily choose which areas to lose fat in, you can tone and sculpt muscle in the areas you want to highlight, which will stand out if you lose weight in general. 

A body with more muscle is fitter and stronger: you're able to do increasingly intense workouts and lose weight progressively faster. By eating a high-protein diet to support muscle growth, you'll also lose weight – as long as you're eating clean, rather than putting away lots of fried chicken instead of lean chicken breast. One study found participants who stuck to a high-protein weight loss diet lost significantly more weight than those who stuck to a low-protein one. 

Women are at a bit of a disadvantage, because the way their hormones work means that they carry weight most around the pelvis, bum and thighs - great for child-bearing, not so great for slim thighs!

However, there are certain tricks for toning and sculpting the thighs that are easier than you might think. From the best exercises for weight loss that particularly work the thighs to simple diet changes, we reveal the seven ways to lose weight on your thighs.

1. Hit the trail

Trail walking and running are basically nature's Stairmaster. Climbing is a great lower-body workout for your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves, but it's actually hiking downhill that will tone your muscles and thighs the most, explains trail-running world champion Ragna Debats. 

"As you descend, your glutes and quads have to work non-stop to stabilize your knees and hips. As these muscles resist the force of gravity against your body weight, the toning effects go into overdrive. Best of all, trail walking and running are free!"

2. Grab an orange

How to lose weight from your thighs: citrus fruit

(Image credit: Rayia Soderberg on Unsplash)

If you want to know how to lose weight from your thighs, try eating oranges. A 2011 study (opens in new tab) found that a diet rich in polyphenols (found in citrus fruits) might interact with the bacteria in the intestines to help weight loss, especially when combined with a diet low in probiotics. 

Considering that oranges are also packed with antioxidants and inflammation-fighting vitamin C, they are an easy and tasty way to blast thigh fat. Not a fan of oranges? Great news – polyphenols can also be found in red wine and dark chocolate!

3. Ditch diets

If you have some extra weight on your thighs, the key to losing body fat is not dieting but rather adopting a long-term, healthy lifestyle. 

We all know there's no such thing as a quick fix and many crash diets are destined to fail. However, eating a balanced mix of nutrient-rich, colorful foods will help to lose weight from your thighs (and everywhere else) – and keep it off. 

Refined sugar, too much salt and saturated fats are no friends of slim thighs, nor is eating processed foods, which scientists found (opens in new tab) can lead to weight gain in as little as two weeks.

4. Squat it like it's hot

As we know, you can't spot-reduce thigh fat, but you can spot-train your muscles so they're toned and strong. Squats are a great way to do this, and you can do them anywhere, anytime (even while waiting for the kettle to boil or binge-watching a Netflix box set). 

Personal trainer Angie Bell (opens in new tab) recommends starting with 40 squats a day, aim to do them three times a week. Each week increase by 20 so by week 4 you're doing 100 squats. "Then you can try another squat variation to keep the results coming," says Angie. "Try adding weight, tempo or doing a curtsy or wide Sumo squat. It won't take long to feel the difference in your thighs, and to inspire you further – squats don't just work that area, this functional leg-building exercise will also sculpt your core, calves, glutes and hamstrings."

Make sure you take some time to learn how to do squats properly (and safely) before you begin, and when you're ready to step things up a notch, try our 30-day squats challenge to really feel the burn! Alternatively, you could head to the gym and try building up to barbell squats, which have been shown (opens in new tab) to decrease body fat percentage after two months of practice.

5. Invest in ankle weights

If you don't have time to go to the gym, ankle weights are a great investment for a quick home workout to blast the inner thighs (notoriously difficult to target). We love these Sport EQ ones from Amazon (opens in new tab).

"Wearing weights means your muscles have to work harder to move the extra load, so you'll gain strength as well as tone in your legs," explains Bell. 

Next step: bent-leg raises. "Start with 1lb ankle weights and sit in a chair with your knees bent, feet on the floor," says Angie. "Extend one leg straight and hold for 60 seconds. Then bend the knee 45 degrees and hold for 30 seconds. Lower your foot back to the floor. Change legs and repeat. As you get stronger, increase your ankle weights to 1/2lbs at a time."

But note, don't use ankle weights for aerobic workouts as you could put unnecessary stress on your joints.

6. Sleep yourself slim

How to lose weight from your thighs: sleeping woman

(Image credit: Vladislav Muslakov on Unsplash)

If you're trying to lose weight, getting around eight hours a night in bed is key. 

Lack of sleep means you're producing more of the stress hormone cortisol and less leptin (which makes you feel hungry) – both love to hold onto fat reserves to give us more energy. 

"If you're having trouble falling or staying asleep, avoid refined sugar and processed carb snacks after 3pm," recommends health and mindfulness coach Louise Murray (opens in new tab)

"These foods disrupt your steady-state down-time metabolism, creating blood sugar and insulin fluctuations that can wake you up at odd times of the night." 

7. Join the Magic Circle

The Pilates ring is not called the 'magic circle' for nothing. This inexpensive bit of kit (we like this CuleedTec one from Amazon (opens in new tab)) adds resistance that works your inner thighs when placed between your legs, and blasts fat fast from the outer thighs when placed outside the legs. Try this quick 10-minute Pilates ring workout with The Balanced Life Pilates teacher Robin Long.

8. Stay hydrated

Drinking water is one of the best ways to stay healthy and lose weight. One study found drinking 500ml, or approximately one pint, of water will increase your metabolism for up to an hour. Drinking a glass of water every hour or so will not only keep your body well-hydrated, but it will also increase your base metabolic rate. Keep one of the best water bottles by your desk.  

A neat side effect is that we often confuse dehydration and thirst with hunger: by remaining hydrated, our appetite decreases. Korean researchers found pre-dinner water intake led to a significant decrease in calorie consumption, so in addition to burning more calories, we also feel the need to take in fewer. 

However, although water is instrumental in our body's functions, it can't provide everything we need: we still need good whole foods to fuel our bodies, provide us with energy and help our muscles grow. Make sure you eat right with some healthy, nutritious, delicious recipes, in addition to staying hydrated.

Maddy is a freelance journalist and Level 3 personal trainer specializing in fitness, health and wellbeing content. She has been a writer and editor for 22 years, and has worked for some of the UK's bestselling newspapers and women’s magazines, including Marie Claire, The Sunday Times and Closer. She also manages Fit&Well's Instagram account.


Maddy loves HIIT training and can often be found running on her treadmill or working out while her two young daughters do matching burpees or star jumps. As a massive foodie, she loves cooking and trying out new healthy recipes (especially ones with hidden vegetables so the kids eat them). She makes a mean margarita and has twice won awards in previous staff jobs as the “office feeder”.