As the summer season comes into full swing, pants and leggings are replaced with shorts, skirts and breezy, short dresses. It is hard to leave the gams covered up when the sun begs you to soak it in, and your legs become the star of the show – for better or worse. However, summer may not be your favorite time of year if your legs aren’t in tip top shape. But worry not! This guide to picture perfect summer legs is here to help you – and your legs – make the most out of the season. Before stockpiling long pants or maxi dresses that cover up every inch, read how essential exercises, varicose vein treatments, tanning and hair removal help you put your best legs forward.
Work it Out: Essential Leg Exercises
The first step in achieving your best summer legs requires a bit of work on your part, but not nearly as much as you might think. There are a few essential, easy exercises you can do to achieve the toned, beautiful legs you want.
The almighty squat
Squats may seem boring at first, but this exercise works to boost your metabolism while tightening the biggest problem area for most women. To do a proper squat, plant your feet solidly on the ground, either shoulder width apart or slightly wider for a deeper tone. While keeping your core stomach muscles tight, simply squat down like you are sitting on the edge of a chair and raise back up to standing. The focus should be on squeezing the inner thigh on both the downward and upward movements. For extra burn, you can add hand weights to the mix.
As another easy move, lunges help strengthen difficult to reach areas including the thighs, hamstrings and lower glutes. Begin with your feet together firmly on the ground and then take a wide step forward. The aim is to get the thigh parallel with the floor while keeping your tummy tucked in. Push back on the heel of your back foot to bend the leg forward, and then return to standing.
The calf raise
This simple move works the calf muscles to ensure they are as toned as your thighs. To begin, spread the feet hip-width apart with arms down to the side. Slowly raise up on your toes while bringing your arms in front of you. Hold the raise for 10 to 20 seconds and then release down. Hand weights as be used to increase the intensity for each set.
In addition to these easy leg-toning exercises, many women utilize certain yoga poses to enhance tone and tightness of the legs. Both triangle pose and tree pose work the muscles critical to achieving a strong lower body, and they can be used intermittently with the exercises mentioned above for a well-rounded routine.
Combatting Varicose Veins
While toning the legs in an important aspect of getting prepped for summer, cosmetic issues often put a damper on being sun ready. Varicose veins – those unsightly enlarged blue or purple veins that appear on the back of the calves or inside the leg – are a common frustration for women. In fact, the American Society for Vascular Surgery estimates that 40 million Americans struggle with varicose veins, with nearly 33% of women experiencing the condition at some point in their lives. Varicose veins are caused by weakened valves within the veins that transport blood from the body to the heart. Instead of flowing freely, blood pools and creates an often unattractive purple or blue swollen area on the legs. If you’re one of the many who struggle with varicose veins, there are a number of corrective actions you can take to get prep your legs for the summer.
Natural remedies are the first course of action in combatting varicose veins, and it begins with wearing the right shoes. Lower heels help tone the calf muscles which in turn encourages proper circulation. Varicose veins are less likely to rear their ugly head when blood is flowing freely and circulation is not restricted. Maintaining a healthy body weight and exercising correctly also assist in keeping varicose veins at bay. While not ideal for the summer heat, wearing compression stockings at home or at work helps to keep legs strong and functioning properly as well.
Your diet and water consumption also play a part in reducing the appearance of varicose veins over time. Consuming foods with plenty of Vitamin C and Vitamin E helps produce collagen and elastin within the body, keeping your legs fit and healthy. Vitamin C-rich foods also help with circulation which keeps varicose veins to a minimum. Getting plenty of fiber helps stave off constipation which increases pressure on the veins over time. Foods like berries, apples, carrots and flaxseed are all great sources of fiber, and tasty, too! Finally, keeping the body hydrated with enough water throughout the day assists with circulation and bowel movements that keep varicose veins from becoming an issue.
When at-home remedies fail to do the trick, medical treatment may be needed to reduce the appearance of varicose veins. Minimally invasive procedures are available from trained medical professionals that work to correct varicose veins, each differing slightly in how the procedure is performed and success rate on patients. Let’s take a look at the best options for varicose vein treatment.
Lasers can be used to generate heat through an intense light source, or radiofrequency can be used to produce heat from electricity, both which work to treat varicose veins in a minimally invasive way. The initial success rate of heat-based techniques is 98% for most patients, and most smaller varicose veins can be treated with this method. Vascular surgeon, Eddie Chaloner, who pioneered endovenous laser surgery for the purpose of treating varicose veins in the UK, prefers heat-based treatment methods due to the high rate of success.
Leaky veins are often treated with foam sclerotherapy, which works by injecting chemicals into the vein with the help of ultrasound technology. While foam sclerotherapy has the potential to work well with smaller varicose veins, some patients see a return of their appearance in as little as two years post-treatment. For veins that cannot be lasered away, foam sclerotherapy is an alternative solution.
Alternatives to heat-based techniques and foam sclerotherapy are available to certain patients, including the high tie and strip method, Clarivein and the Sapheon Glue system. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, all of which should be considered prior to getting treatment for your varicose veins.
The Right Hue
Glamorous gams don’t stop at being toned and vein-free; achieving a tan is also part of the summer-ready solution. Unfortunately, getting a tan on your legs can prove to be a difficult feat. The skin on the legs is naturally thicker than other parts of the body, and constant shaving and exfoliation makes it a challenge to keep a summer hue. For most women, utilizing a moisturizer that is chock full of nutrients and vitamins helps in achieving tanned legs, as does using a self-tanner or natural bronzer after a sunbathing session.
Avoiding tight pants or leggings may also boost your leg tan over time, as the skin needs oxygen and blood flow to soak up the rays efficiently. Additionally, keeping the exfoliating routine down to once per week is helpful in maintaining the tan to your legs over time.
Keeping the Hair Off
Attractive legs are often associated with hair-free skin, which makes knowing your options for hair removal important for the summer season. Shaving is the simplest choice, although hair grows back quickly and ingrown hairs are often an unsightly issue. If shaving doesn’t produce the results you are looking for, waxing is a common next step. Hot or cool wax is spread over the skin and then quickly removed to take away unwanted hair, and the hair stays away for up to six weeks.
Laser hair removal is another option for summer-ready legs, and the procedure is touted as one of the most effective in producing long-term hair removal. The procedure is minimally invasive and utilizes light energy to remove hair from the follicles under the skin. Results can last up to 12 months, after an initial six to 12 treatment sessions.
Getting your legs ready for the summer season does not have to be a daunting task. Instead, focus on toning up with simple, easy exercise routines, and try home remedies or medical treatment for reducing the appearance of varicose veins. Work on your tan by keeping those legs moisturized, and consider your options when it comes to the removal of unwanted hair. Each of these steps pave the way for beautiful legs throughout the summer months and beyond.