Your body shape is largely determined by genetics, according to Penn Medicine, but age, sex and lifestyle factors also play a role. You can't change your bone structure, nor can you target fat in specific areas to change your body shape, but good diet and exercise can help.
Types of Body Shapes
According to Penn Medicine, there are five types of body shapes:
- Apple: Fat accumulates around the abdomen, so the body has a wider waist and looks rounder.
- Pear: Shoulders are narrower than hips, and weight is carried in the hips, thighs and buttocks.
- Hourglass: Fat is distributed evenly between the upper and lower body, with a small, well-defined waist.
- Inverted triangle: The hip area is narrow, but the shoulders or bust are wider.
- Ruler: The body doesn't have any obvious curves, as the chest, waist and hip size are all about the same.
Most can argue pros and cons to each type of body shape, but from a medical perspective the apple shapes are often of concern because abdominal obesity is the most dangerous, according to Penn Medicine. Those with apple shape may find fat accumulates in the stomach more easily than people with other body types. It's important to note, too, that even those who aren't apple shapes should still embody a healthy lifestyle with diet and exercise — even ruler-shaped people can have health problems due to excess body weight.
Read more: What Your Body Shape Says About Your Health
General Exercise Recommendations
Although most are predisposed to a particular shape, if you want to change your body shape, it will take a combination of cardiovascular, or aerobic, activity to burn fat and strength-training to build muscle, no matter what your body shape may be. At minimum, you should do enough exercise to meet the recommendations by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise and two or more days of strengthening activities that hit all major muscle groups.
Aerobic activity refers to exercises that get your heart rate up. This could mean an activity as simple as walking every day for at least 30 minutes, but you could also go jogging, swimming, cycling, dancing or get on a cardio machine, such as an elliptical or stair stepper, says the Cleveland Clinic. Strength-training can be done with body-weight exercises, such as push-ups and squats, or with free weights, resistance tubing or weight machines, notes the Mayo Clinic.
Exercises to Change Body Shape
Unfortunately, there's no way to target fat deposits on specific parts of your body. If you're an apple shape, you might want to exercise to get rid of belly fat — however, that's known as "spot-reducing," and it's not possible, according to the American Council on Exercise. Therefore, the best type of exercise for body types is one of that you do consistently.
Penn Medicine says that apple, pear and hourglass shapes should exercise at least 30 minutes a day, follow a healthy diet and engage in strengthening activities to tighten the underlying muscles. Inverted triangle and ruler shapes may be interested in less cardio but more muscle building exercises that will help tone and strengthen places of the body that are underdeveloped.
For example, if inverted triangle-shaped people want to look less narrow in the lower part of the body, Penn Medicine recommends focusing on exercises that build up the lower body. This could include squats, lunges and leg raises. Ruler shapes can add muscle by doing full-body strengthening workouts.
- Penn Medicine: "What Your Body Shape Reveals About Your Health"
- The Mayo Clinic: "Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Aerobic Exercise & Heart Health"
- American Council on Exercise: "How Can I Get Rid of Belly Fat?"