The lower body is a trouble spot for most women. Why? Our bodies are living in the past. Our hormones send excess fat straight to the lower body, which was helpful thousands of years ago—when women needed this fat storage to survive droughts, famines, and long winters—but isn't exactly needed today. The good news: You can fight back with the right thigh-toning exercises.

First, a little anatomy. Your thighs are made up of four muscle groups: The quadriceps (quads) are located at the front of your thighs; you use them to straighten your legs. You use your hamstrings, at the back of the thigh, to bend your leg. The abductors, the outer-thigh muscles, pull your legs sideways away from your body; and the adductors, the inner thigh muscles, pull your legs sideways back to your body.

The inner thigh area is a particularly frustrating spot because unless you play sports like basketball or tennis, which involve lots of side-to-side motion, these muscles get very little use and lose their tone. Fortunately, the four simple exercises will target your inner thighs as well as the surrounding muscles.

Do two sets of 10 to 12 reps on each leg (unless otherwise indicated), two or three times a week. Leave a day of rest between workouts.

1. Inner-Thigh Lift

(a) Lie on your right side, supporting your head on your hand. (If this position bothers your neck, fold your arm down and rest your head on it.) Bend your left leg, placing your foot flat on the floor in front of your right leg. Your right leg is extended and slightly forward.

(b) Using your inner thigh muscles, lift your right leg toward the ceiling at least 6 inches. Hold, and then slowly lower. Repeat on the other side.

2. Seated Leg Raise

(a) Sit on a sturdy chair. Rest your feet on the floor with your knees bent 90 degrees. Rest your hands on the chair at your sides.

(b) Exhale as you lift and extend your right leg. Hold for 30 seconds as you breathe normally. Then inhale as you lower your right leg and exhale as you repeat with your left leg. Hold for 30 seconds while breathing normally.

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