Everyone is different when it comes to weight loss and exercise.
Some people find it hard to lose weight and easy to gain. Others find it more difficult to gain and easy to lose.
Metabolism varies from one individual to another, and two people are rarely the same; but how quickly or easily you lose or gain weight can to an extent be attributed to your ‘body type’.
In the 1940s, Dr William Herbert Sheldon developed a system of categorising body types. These categories (or somatotypes) he argued, were directly linked to a person’s personality traits, and therefore could be used to forecast an individual’s achievements and eventual social standing.
This school of thought was called ‘constitutional psychology’.
Unsurprisingly, constitutional psychology was not recognised or pursued by other medical theorists, and became a largely forgotten notion; but the system of somatotypes he developed is still used by many today to categorise different body shapes.
What body type am I?
The three ‘classic’ types are:
It’s important to note however that most people will have traits of more than one of these body types, and rarely will someone find themselves accurately defined by just one.
While there is certainly no direct link between these body types and personality or future social status, some experts think that they can be used (to an extent) to gauge how someone’s body might react to different diet and exercise practices.
This body type tends to be:
- have a flat pectoral/chest area
- thin at the shoulders
- thin at the waist
- quick to metabolise fat
- slow to put on weight
Perhaps a good example of an ectomorph is a long-distance runner. They tend to have narrow bodies, stringy muscles and small joints.
As you might expect, ectomorphs do not commonly experience issues losing weight because they find it difficult to put on in the first place.
With age however, they may be more susceptible to osteoporosis and sustaining bone damage from injuries, due to their thin skeletal structure.
Regular exercise which includes weight training can help to strengthen bones in such cases, and help to prevent the bones from further weakening. In addition to undertaking cardiovascular exercise, the ectomorph can increase their strength by focussing on short sets of intense compound movements, which help to develop multiple muscle groups.
The typical athlete’s build, mesomorphs tend to have:
- hard, well-defined muscle
- good core strength
- wedge-shaped bodies
- a narrow waistline
- wide shoulders
Mesomorphs are ideally built for muscle gains and weight training at the gym. Their athletic build also makes them adept at several sports and they will usually store fat evenly across their bodies.
However, although they are ideally positioned toward weight training, if the mesomorph slips into a sedentary lifestyle or a high-fat or high-calorie diet, they may gain weight quite easily.
In such cases, they may be at increased risk of stroke and heart disease.
Consequently, the mesomorph will need to keep their diet in check but also undertake a mixture of cardiovascular and weight-bearing exercise in order to stay healthy.
The endomorph will usually have:
- a soft, round body type with wide hips
- a curvy or ‘hourglass’ frame
- a shorter and stockier build
- thicker joints
- less clearly defined muscles
- a slower metabolism
- a tendency to gain weight easily
- difficulty losing weight
Unsurprisingly, the endomorph is the body type which has a higher inclination for obesity. The fat storage tendencies of female and male endomorphs are usually different, with females putting on weight around the thighs and hips; and males collecting it around the abdomen.
This pattern of weight distribution makes the overweight endomorph more susceptible to cardiovascular health issues (due to fat collecting in the centre of the body, around the vital organs), and also to diabetes and certain cancers.
To stay healthy, endomorphs are advised to undertake regular cardiovascular exercise (preferably low impact, such as swimming and cycling) and maintain a balanced diet. Some also think that smaller but more frequent meals are a suitable choice for the endomorph.
Weight training is also recommended, in order to achieve a healthier overall muscle to fat ratio; the good news for the endomorph is that they’ll generally be able to do this without assistance from protein supplements.
Change with age
It is common for body types to alter as we progress through our lives. Someone may well display characteristics of an ectomorph in their twenties, but develop endomorphic traits as they get older.
And remember, it’s not often the case that someone will be accurately characterised by one somatotype. People will generally lean more towards one type more than an another, but actually be a mixture of two or all three.
This means that it is important to determine a diet and exercise plan which fits your individual makeup.
If you’re looking to shed a few pounds, take note of how your body reacts to your eating habits. For instance, if your metabolism responds well to eating little and often and this method helps you to lose weight at a healthy pace, pursue it.