What Your Body Shape Reveals About Your Health

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Are you an apple? A pear? Or maybe a ruler? Discovering your body shape is more than one of those silly online quizzes. Understanding your body shape could help you find the most effective workout and, according to many studies, help improve your health.

There are so many factors that can determine our body shape: genetics, lifestyle, sex and age. Some people can eat fried foods and junk every day but never gain weight. Some people tend to accumulate weight around the hip, others on the belly.

Based on the overall fat distribution in your body, most people can fall into these body shape categories:

  • Apple
  • Pear
  • Hourglass
  • Inverted Triangle
  • Ruler

What matters most is not what you are shaped like, but what that shape means for your health and how you can better manage your lifestyle to stay healthy.

Apple Shape

Health Risks

Abdominal obesity is probably the most dangerous of all, and apple body shape is considered at the highest risk for health issues compared to the other body types. Larger waists can mean higher risk of heart disease. It can also mean higher risk of Type 2 diabetes. If you are apple-shaped but not overweight –– meaning your body mass index (BMI) is under 25 — you are still at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes than people with smaller waists.

Why can fat around your waist create so much trouble? Different from the fat in other parts of the body, fat on the abdominal area is like an iceberg.

Here’s why belly fat causes so many problems:

  • It grows deep within your abdominal cavity and fills the space between organs. 
  • Belly fat has stronger influence on your metabolism. It releases fatty acids and substances into the blood through the nearby vein that is connected with liver.
  • This can cause metabolic syndrome that can reduce production from the pancreas.
  • The result is your blood sugar stays high and you’re at risk for diabetes. 

In addition, the fatty cells can trigger inflammatory response that releases a substance called cytokines. This substance is a cause behind heart disease.

What to Do

Trim your waistline by following a healthy diet and intensive exercise. Sugar, pizza, bread, bagels, rice, white potatoes and corn can spike your blood sugar level and produce more fat. Eat more fruits and vegetables, and less fatty protein, such as salmon. Exercise at least 30 minutes per day to lose weight, and you can combine abdominal strengthening exercises to tighten the muscle.

Different Body Shapes Infographic

Pear Shape

Health Risks

Studies results are not consistent for the health risks of a pear-shaped body. Previous studies say the fat in hips, thighs and buttocks can lower the risk for heart disease. However, a new study shows the opposite –– a leaner lower body can do more good to your heart. If you are overweight, weight loss in any part –– abdomen, leg or buttocks –– is good for bringing down cholesterol.

What to Do

Fat accumulated in the lower body can be stubborn. You may have seen progress in your abdomen, but not so much. The formula for successful weight-loss is simple: diet and exercise. It’s the same for a pear-shaped body. That starts with eating smaller portions and including more vegetables, fruits and low-fat protein.

Hourglass Shape

Health Risks

Having this body shape means that when you gain weight, it is not concentrated in one area like apple-shaped or pear-shaped people. That means weight gain can be hard to spot if you’re not regularly checking the scale. If you become overweight, you are at higher risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease as well.

What to Do

Full-body workout routines are good for hourglass-shaped people, since you could gain fat in both your upper and lower body. You can also add more low-fat and high-fiber food to your diet to maintain a healthy weight. 

Inverted Triangle Shape

Health Risks

If you are a woman with a larger bust, you may have worried that your breast size could leave you at a higher risk for breast cancer. In fact, this link is unproven. Instead, you should have a better understanding of your breast density –– dense breasts have more connective tissue than fatty tissue, and can increase your risk for breast cancer. So, it’s not necessarily the size of the breast that puts you at risk for breast cancer. You can determine your breast density through regular mammograms.

What to Do

To look less narrow in the below-the-bust area, you can focus on exercises that can build up your lower body, such as squats, lunges and leg raises. You may also want to be aware of your BMI, because becoming overweight or obese can increase your risk for many diseases such as breast cancer. It’s no surprise that in order to maintain a healthy weight, you need to follow a lower-fat, balanced diet and stay physically active. 

Ruler (Column) Shape

Health Risks

Many slender celebrities have this figure, but it doesn’t mean that all ruler-shaped people are skinny. If you are overweight, you are not exempt from a higher risk for heart disease and diabetes. 

If you are a woman and underweight, you are at risk for certain health conditions, such as problems with menstruation, getting pregnant, malnutrition and depression. 

What to Do

Even though it’s hard for you to gain weight, you should also watch your diet and exercise. Slender people may increase their health risk by thinking they may never look fat. The truth is your body fat percentage has risen without you noticing. This can give you the same chance of developing health conditions, like diabetes, as any other type of body shape. 

The Bottom Line

Many studies say that apple shape is worse than pear shape. However, the shape of the body is just a way to know where you can improve your overall health. No matter what shape you are, the key is to maintain a healthy weight, eat healthy foods and stay active.

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