I’ll never forget the time some years ago when a fellow looked me up and down and said, “Nice gams.” Of course, I’d never heard the expression before and wasn’t sure what to think. However, it was said so politely that I figured it was okay. So I thanked the guy and went about my business. Later I found out that gamba in Italian means “leg,” so “nice gams” meant “nice legs.”
Well all right then. I was feeling pretty good about myself, despite the fact that genetics had probably played a large role in my “nice gams.” However, my diet, exercise and lifestyle have also had a role in the way my legs had developed.
Size USA once conducted a study on leg sizes (inseam) for the apparel industry. The study showed that an adult woman’s legs made up 45% of her height versus 44% of a man’s height being derived from his legs, thus proving that women are leggier than men. Women, therefore, need to exercise their gams 1% harder than men.
Now, for a little “legnatomy.” The legs muscles above the knee, or your thigh area, are known as the quadriceps, hamstrings and the abductors. Below the knee you have the shin muscles, gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, which are also know as your calve muscles.
Now, despite genetics, how your legs look is largely up to you. So many women are afraid to train their legs for fear of “bulking up.” Bulky legs syndrome is usually related to a poor, fatty diet and lack of exercise. Your legs need to work out no matter what your fitness level in order to carry out basic lifestyle activities and chores such as taking out the trash, doing yard work and laundry, cleaning, carrying groceries, and doing our jobs. In fact, the more you engage your leg muscles in any given day, the more calories you burn. Unfortunately, however, we are a nation of couch potatoes and mouse jockeys.
Getting up out of your office chair for even a few hours each day will help you burn calories. Research has shown that standing burns 40%-50% more calories than sitting. In fact, standing for 2 hours burns the equivalent number of calories as a 2-mile run. Push that to 2.5 hours per day and you’ll have burned 350 calories, which, over the course of a year would amount to about 20 pounds of weight! Now, you’ll want to avoid getting too much of a good thing – prolonged standing, like prolonged sitting, has been associated with adverse side effects and physical problems. My friend Debby has a job that has her on her feet roughly 5-6 hours per day, which on the concrete floor of her library, tends to wreak havoc on her ankles and knees. However, she’ll be the first to tell you that she’d rather be up and about than tied to her desk chair for hours on end. It’s all about balance and moderation – and sensible footwear.
Want nice gams? Below are some ways to engage your legs more in everyday activities:
- Create a work environment where you can stand some while you work.
- Instead of sitting when on a phone call, walk and talk.
- If you must sit, use an exercise ball; it engages the core muscles that support you.
- Park farther away, if it’s safe, to get some extra steps in.
- Enjoy a 10-minute walk before eating your lunch.
- Walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Or…if you work on the 40th floor, take the elevator to the 36th floor and walk up the last four flights.
- Take walking breaks or conduct walking meetings.
- Ditch the drive-through – walk in to the bank or restaurant instead.
- Ditch the remote – get up and change the channel.