Ask Stephie: Women and fitness: Tips for re-shaping the lower body

We were all given different body types, but every woman is beautiful in her own way. Our sizes and shapes vary because we have different genetics and lifestyles. Generally, our stubborn areas tend to be the buns, thighs and the backs of the thighs. The tummy can be a problem, too, especially after having babies.

However, don’t despair! The following four tips will arm you with the necessary information to burn off the stubborn fat on your lower body:

1. Pay attention to how you eat.

If you exercise almost every day, but neglect good nutrition, your results will be slow and minimal.

Eating a healthy diet doesn’t have to be difficult or boring. Educating yourself about the proper foods to eat leaves a long list of delicious and nutritious choices. Experimenting and learning the best foods for your body and activity level will almost always leave you satisfied. Make sure you do not exclude any of the major macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) because they all have a benefit to the body.

Healthy carbohydrates, proteins and fats are essential to any good eating program. Fad diets that eliminate one of those groups will lead to nutritional imbalances. It’s the quality of the food that matters. Try eating some fibrous vegetables (such as broccoli, spinach, carrots or asparagus); nobody ever got fat eating her “greens.” Last, but not least, don’t totally deprive yourself of everything you love; have a treat on occasion, but don’t make it a regular habit.

2. Challenge yourself with weights and do essential lower body exercises; cardio alone will not do the trick.

Strength training is crucial in transforming your lower body. The biggest misconception women have is they will become big and bulky if they do any sort of weight training. Wrong! The complete opposite is true; to get rid of body fat and attain a sculpted lower body, you need to challenge it through a constantly changing strength training routine.

If you are carrying a significant amount of body fat, you may actually see a slight increase in size for a short period of time before becoming smaller. This is a common occurrence that scares many females away from the weight room, but is just a transition period as your body’s metabolism becomes jump-started.

I have found the most effective exercises in toning and shaping the lower half to be:

Squats—Squats using dumbbells, balls, bands, balance equipment, etc., will dramatically change your entire lower body.

Lunges—Walking, stationary, and lateral lunging moves are guaranteed to make things feel firmer.

Step-Ups—Using a box or step with risers will really target your thighs and glutes (buttocks). Mastering the coordination of this exercise is fundamental.

Deadlifts—The name is scarier than the actual exercise! Using dumbbells or a barbell and mixing up the different variations of this exercise will effectively target the hamstrings (backs of the thighs).

5. Incorporate cardiovascular exercise into your routine, but not in excessive amounts.

Aerobic conditioning is important to any workout regimen, but it is NOT the key in achieving a sculpted lower half. It’s a great way to burn additional calories and strengthen the heart, but it will not tone muscles the way weight training does.

A well-rounded fitness program should include three to four days a week of cardio. Some of you may need more and some of you less, depending on your goals. Each session ideally should be 30 to 45 minutes; again, more or less depending on your goals.

Obviously, choose the activities that are most enjoyable to you. By picking a cardiovascular activity you don’t absolutely dread, you will find it easier to stick to your program. Choose some good music, too, or find a partner.

6. Change your exercise routine often to avoid boredom and plateaus (loss of progress).

I usually suggest changing routines every three to six weeks, depending on the progress being made. The body adapts to its environment very quickly and constantly needs change, and this is especially true when it comes to fitness.

Not only is variety important for the body, but the mind needs stimulation, too. Changing your program every month or so will give you something to look forward to.

Now that you have some suggestions about how to fight the female “stubborn areas,” I hope you will challenge yourself and have fun!

Always consult a doctor before beginning any exercise program or making any dietary changes.

Stephie Steele is owner of Symmetry Fitness, LLC. She specializes in weight loss, sports performance, total body fitness, posture alignment therapy, strength training, core conditioning, cardiovascular and flexibility training. Visit her Web site at or e-mail her with questions at

.from the March 14-20, 2007, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!