Determining Your Body Type

People come in all shapes, but most can be placed into a particular category of body type, mesomorph, ectomorph, or endomorph. These body types have different characteristics, and you should tailor your workout to whichever you belong. Here's the skinny on the different types of bodies:

A mesomorph (or meso, for short) can be defined in one word: muscular. If you're a meso, your body type is usually the envy of all gym rats because you can increase your muscle size quickly and easily. The well-developed, rectangular shapes of mesomorphs are representative of their thick bones and muscles. (Before you get too excited about this perfect form, keep in mind that being a meso may also mean you have poor flexibility.) If you are a characteristic mesomorph, you have a well-defined chest and shoulders that are both larger and broader than your waistline. Your abdomen is taut and your hips are generally the same width as your shoulders. Your buttocks, thighs, and calves are all toned and defined.

As muscularly defined, athletic-looking individuals, mesomorphs are full of energy, are physically capable of a lot of activity, and tend to be aggressive athletically. (Usually no couch potatoes in this group.) Although mesomorphs generally store fat evenly all over their bodies, they can become overweight if they are sedentary and consume a high-fat and/or high-calorie diet.

Cardiovascular disease can be a primary threat to an overweight meso, so if you fit into that category, your best method of prevention is to maintain a healthy diet and a balanced exercise regime. Remember that your heart is a muscle, too, and the best way to keep it fit is to perform cardiovascular activities.

Craving physical activity and constantly seeking action, the mesomorph makes a great athlete. As a meso, you excel in sports that require great strength, short bursts of energy, and lots of power. Mesos are always popular in gym class and at the playground, because people want mesos on their teams. If you're scouting for body types at your local gym (and who isn't?), you will most likely find your fellow mesos lifting weights and avoiding the cardio equipment like step machines or treadmills.

When you think "mesomorph," think of Sylvester Stallone and Demi Moore.

A one-word description for the ectomorph body type (or ecto, for short) is slim. If you're an ecto, mesomorphs and endomorphs usually don't want to stand next to you. It's not that ectomorphs aren't personable, it's just that you're probably a tall, slender individual who has trouble gaining weight (oh darn!). As you may have guessed, the perfect example of an ecto is a fashion model.

An ectomorph is relatively linear in shape with a delicate build, narrow hips and pelvis, and long arms and legs. As an ecto, your muscle and bone outlines are usually visible (especially if you are an extremely thin ecto), and you normally have less fat and muscle mass than people with other body types. Remember, though, that you probably don't have all the features of a characteristic endomorph, but a blend of features from more than one body type.

Although willowy ectomorphs cover the majority of fashion magazines, nobody's perfect, and ectos do have health concerns. Your primary concern as an ectomorph is your frail stature consisting of small bones and joints that have a tendency to be injured easily during sporting activities.

You probably won't be the star of your football team or the next champion gladiator. Don't worry — your body type is naturally suited to perform wonderfully in endurance activities. Just remember: Balancing your activities is the key. Like mesomorphs, ectos have a tendency to stick with what they do best, and ectos excel at cardiovascular training. You find balance in your workouts when you do both aerobic and muscle training.

When you think "ectomorph," think of Tom Hanks and Courtney Cox.

A one-word description of the endomorph body type (or endo, for short) is curvy. The soft, flowing curves of an endo are similar to that of an hourglass in more ways than one. And wouldn't you know it; the sands of an hourglass tend to settle in its bottom half just like the fat in the body. Comparatively, if you're an endomorph, your body fat may have a tendency to settle into the lower regions of your body, predominantly the lower abdomen, hips, and thighs, rather than being distributed evenly throughout your body. Keep in mind, though, that most endomorphs don't have all the features of characteristic endomorph, but a blend of features from other body types as well.

An endomorph body typically has the capacity for high fat storage, and unfortunately puts fat on pretty easily. Although all body types are susceptible to excessive weight gain, as an endomorph, you are more inclined to become obese. The majority of your body weight is either centered in the middle of your body or in your hip and buttocks regions. A metaphor frequently used to describe an endomorph body type is pear-shaped. A pear resembles a body that has more weight in the lower region, like the hips and thighs, than the upper portion of the body. Structurally, as an endo, you have small to medium bones, limbs that are shorter in relation to your trunk, and musculature that is not well defined.

Now for the good news. From top to bottom, your soft swelling curves create full, rounded shoulders, limbs, and a full trunk. Voluptuous and sensual are the descriptions given to many endomorph females whose soft body contours and deep curves create an allure like that of Marilyn Monroe.

A male endomorph (known as an android) tends to have a different fat distribution pattern from a female endomorph (known as a gynoid). Female endos usually collect fat in their butts, legs, and hips, while most males collect fat in their abdomen (the "spare tire" or "love handle" look). Many research studies have shown that abdominal fat deposition is much more dangerous than fat in the leg and butt area. This is primarily due to the danger of heart disease (see the Heart Disease For Dummies Cheat Sheet) and an increased risk of diabetes, stroke, some cancers, and high blood pressure.

The key to taking the bad with the good and finding happiness with your body type is by balancing all aspects of your life. Your first concern is your health, and your major health concern as an endo is maintaining a healthy body weight. Excessive amounts of body fat can place you in jeopardy of cardiovascular disease. Remember that the risk of such disease is increased if the majority of the fat is carried in the center of your body surrounding your heart. This danger can easily be avoided by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising. The joints of your lower body may be another health concern. Because these joints are already highly susceptible to injury, high-impact sports or activities may be damaging to them, especially if you carry excess body weight.

When you think "endomorph," think of Robin Williams and Oprah Winfrey.

See also:

How a Healthy Diet Helps You Live Well

Maximizing the Healing Effects of Exercise

Using Cardio Exercise for Good Health

The Essentials of Weight Training

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