While we all come in different sizes and everybody is unique, experts have identified four basic body shapes that all women fall into. Body shapes are largely determined by bone structure, genetics and age. You can really change any of these things but your lifestyle can help to improve your appearance and make you feel great about your body.
When you identify which category you fit into, you can tailor anything from your diets, workouts and clothes to hide any body flaws you may have.
What is an apple shape?
Apple-shaped individuals carry excess weight around their abdomens (a “spare tyre") and lack a well-defined waistline. Weight gain tends to go straight to the belly area and results in a rounded profile.
What does it mean for your health?
Unfortunately, apple-shaped women tend to be at greater risk of many health issues than other shapes. According to studies, those who carry extra weight around the middle are at higher risk of diabetes, heart problems, breast cancer, depression and fertility issues. That's why exercise and diet are key to keep these problems at bay and ensure optimum health.
The apple shape diet and exercise plan
Anybody who is carrying excess weight will improve their health and fitness through diet and exercise. However, it is especially important for apple-shaped women to take steps to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. To reduce your waistline, you should opt for a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio exercise every day to target fat and improve heart health. As visceral fat is easily affected by aerobic exercise, cardio is key to avoid the build up of weight around the abdomen.
Aim for around five days a week of high intensity cardio. HIIT and running are ideal due to their core engaging nature whilst providing aerobic exercise. You should aim for two or three days of weight training, mostly focusing on your core and back. Unfortunately sit-ups won't help apple-shaped women as they just build up muscle underneath the fat. Instead focus on core exercises like the plank and leg lifts to build your entire core.
It is important to also make dietary changes by cutting back on calories (sticking to around 1500 calories a day), opting for low-GI foods and cutting out saturated fats as much as possible. General weight loss will be best for you as the main way to tackle abdomen fat is by cutting it in the kitchen. As research also suggests that stress can lead to increased storage of fat around the middle, apple-shaped women may also find it helpful to supplement their weights workouts with a relaxing form of exercise such as yoga or Tai Chi, reducing stress whilst still using muscle strength.
Straight or Ruler shape
What is a ruler shape?
The “ruler” refers to a body shape where fat is distributed evenly and measurements of chest, hips and waist are all relatively similar, giving the body a straight ruler shape. Generally considered as “Boyish”, the ruler shape is not exempt from weight problems (you can still be overweight and a ruler); however many slender women do fall into this category.
What does it mean for your health?
Ruler-shaped women tend to have faster metabolisms than those of other shapes, meaning that they can lose weight more easily through diet and exercise. However, without an appropriate diet and exercise plan, ruler-shaped ladies tend to gain weight on the stomach, leading to similar health issues as apple-shaped females.
The ruler shape diet and exercise plan
Luckily for ruler-shaped ladies, weight gain and loss tends to be pretty even. However, this can also cause frustration for women who long for a shapelier figure. As for those of all shapes, regular cardio workouts are essential for keeping weight off and maintaining good health; however, ruler-shaped women may also want to incorporate a program of resistance training to help sculpt the body. By building up muscles in the chest and bum area and tightening their core, ruler-shaped females can create definition and add curves.
Cardio exercises should be carried out around 4 times a week, similar to apple shapes, stripping back the body fat, if any, and keeping up good health. Cardio exercises that build up muscle effectively are best; so try to avoid a jog and instead head for the stair stepper to get those muscles larger. The weight room will be your friend! Dont be afraid of pumping some iron, as once your body is stripped of its extra weight, building up the muscles will be key to adding shape and svelte. Squats and leg press are ideal to build hip and glute muscles, whilst bench press and chest flys are great to expand the chest and shoulders, giving the appearance of a smaller waist.
Many ruler-shaped women are naturally thin; however it is still important for them to follow a healthy diet. While some slimmer individuals believe that they can eat whatever they want, a poor diet can still lead to poor health and energy regardless of your weight. Try to opt for a balanced diet high in nutritious foods rather than empty calories. Luckily for you, little restrictions have to be placed on your diet, within reason to keep a healthy diet. The main aim for rulers is to eat regularly and frequently to help maintain weight and encourage your metabolism, but importantly to load up on the protein. Protein will not only help rid any fat, but will also help build up those muscles quickly, providing them with their much needed repair and growth for a more curvy appearance.
What is a pear shape?
According to researchers at the North Carolina State University, just over one fifth of women are pear-shaped, making it a very common body shape. Women of this shape have a larger hip than bust measurement and weight tends to settle on the lower part of the body; on the bum, hips and thighs. And whilst we all love a curvy bum and figure, too weight settling on only these places can be quite frustrating.
What does it mean for your health?
To begin with the bad news, research has found that pear-shaped women are at greater risk of dangerous blood clots including deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and are more likely to suffer from memory loss and arthritis later in life. However, on a brighter note, studies have also found that having a big bum and thighs has some great health benefits, as fat stored in this area mops up harmful fatty acids and cuts your risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. While this is good, being overweight still has health implications regardless of where it is stored.
The pear shape diet and exercise plan
Whilst you would think focusing on your lower half would be the important part, for pear shapes it is best not to forget about the upper half, as toning up upper-body muscles will balance out the lower half, making it appear smaller. For you a mix of endurance cardio to keep the weight at bay and overall body training is key to tone up and strip fat.
Cardio is very important as the legs will not only be rid of fat but also tone up, which can be a major issue for pear shapes. Aim for around 5 days a week of 30-60 minute cardio workouts. The weight room can be utilised for every part of the body, doing leg exercises such as walking lunges and squats are great to shape and tone your trouble areas. Whilst working specifically on chest and shoulders to broaden those areas and imitate an hourglass figure, drawing the waist in and balancing the lower half.
Pear women typically suffer from cellulite and muffin tops, and so keeping your diet healthy is important to maintain weight around the lower half. Staying away from typically fatty foods and carb-binges is best, cheese is also typically known for its cellulite encouragement and so restricting your diet to healthy fats, protein and vegetables is key for weight loss. Eating foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can also help ward off memory problems and Alzheimer’s, which appear to be more prevalent in pear-shaped women.
What is an hourglass shape?
The hourglass shape is one of the most sought after body shapes but also one of the least common, belonging to just eight per cent of women. For hourglass-shaped women the hip and bust measurements are of a similar size, with a much narrower waist measurement. Weight gain tends to accumulate on the chest, arms, hips and bum rather than the abdomen. And when controlled, their figures can be most desire, by both men and women, but if weight gets out of control can result in excess fat in numerous areas.
What does it mean for your health?
Hourglass-shaped women are lucky in that weight distribution tends to be even, rather than accumulating in one particular area of the body. They also tend not to gain weight on the abdomen, which reduces their risks of cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, research has suggested that women with hourglass figures are more fertile and may have higher intelligence levels, could they be more lucky?
The hourglass shape diet and exercise plan
Hourglass figures tend to be quite well balanced, so these women should focus on maintaining their shape with full-body workouts such as circuit training; combining cardio to keep off excess weight and resistance training to tone up. Like apple-shaped women, hourglass-shaped ladies may also wish to opt for relaxing exercises such as yoga, as studies suggest that stress can cause fat to shift from the hips to the waist. As curvy hourglass women are also prone to back pain, try doing exercises which strengthen the core and improve posture such as Pilates, and make sure you invest in a good, supportive exercise bra for all workouts.
Four or five cardio workouts a week is ideal to keep any pesky weight increases at bay. Hourglass women don't have to be picky when it comes to exercise as their whole body needs a workout, instead of just one area. It is best to do exercises that engage both legs, arms and core, so classes such as zumba, body pump or even swimming will engage all muscle areas.
Weight training should be done around 4 times a week similarly to cardio. Hourglass women are advised to do more weight training that others simply to ensure all areas of the body have been worked. All exercises are open to you; from squats and lunges to lateral pull-downs and press-ups.
The thing hourglass women should watch out for is weight gain, as evenly spread across the body, a weight increase can bump up your dress size relatively quickly without you noticing. And so it is best instead of following any particular dietary regime, to stick to a healthy balanced diet. Receiving a range of all nutrients, and keeping your food clean and healthy. Obviously stay away from highly fatty foods and low GI carbs, as all women should, there are no specific food groups to stay away from or increase, instead a healthy balance of nutrients is key.