What does your body shape say about your health?

Are you a pencil? Or maybe a pear?

No, it’s not your personality but your body shape, which can fall into a few clear categories.

But how do they affect your health?

First up, your body shape is often determined by your genetics, so you can do all the sit-ups, crunches and burpees you want and unless you are a bodybuilder, your genes will usually win through.

Some people will gain weight on their hips, some on their thighs and some on their backside. However, certain body shapes will indicate some health problems.

First, what are the ‘basic’ body shapes?

According to Webmd, body shapes can be linked into a few different categories:

Apple: rounder in the middle

Pear: Fuller on the bottom half

Inverted triangle: Wider in the shoulders and chest with a narrow waist

Ruler or pencil: Straight up and down

Hourglass: Proportional chest and hips with a smaller waist.


The most dangerous body shape is the apple as it can be a red flag that you are at risk of conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and other chronic conditions.

It indicates there is more fat deeper inside your internal organs – visceral fat – and that type of fat is closely linked to the conditions mentioned above.

Time to crack out the measuring tape because according to HealthDirect, women’s waist circumference should be less than 80cm. Greater than 80cm you are at risk of disease and greater than 88cm and you are at high risk of disease.

For men, your waist measurement should be 94cm or less, and at 102cm or more you are at high risk of health issues.


Obviously, pear shapes have extra fat in the hips and thighs with the shoulders narrower than the hips.

According to Penn Medicine, the jury is still out on if this body shape poses much of a health risk with studies coming to different conclusions.

One danger of this body shape is that it puts extra pressure on the legs and the lower joints so you may be at risk of osteoarthritis and varicose veins.

However, if you want to move this fat, the bad news is it’s some of the most stubborn to shift, so more of that diet and exercise.

Inverted triangle

Congratulations! Unless your shoulders and/or breasts are well out of proportion, you are in luck, inverted triangle – large shoulders tapering down to the waist – is one of the more ideal body shapes.

If you are out of proportion, you are likely to suffer more aches and pains in the upper area of the body, especially the back, neck and shoulders.

Ruler or pencil

Not much to imagine here, it simply means you are straight up and down.

You would assume that’s just for skinny people, but many overweight people also fall into this category.

However, if you are a skinny ruler, you should also keep an eye on what’s the ideal body weight for your height as being underweight also brings several possible health issues including malnutrition and depression.

Rulers also often have smaller, thinner bones that can be at risk of fractures and osteoporosis.


Often held up as the ideal ‘female’ figure, hourglasses aren’t without their health problems.

The biggest problem is that because the fat is evenly distributed across the body in all the ‘appealing’ areas, you may lose sight of the fact that your waist is also increasing, which as discussed above in the apple section, can be an indicator of being at risk of several health issues.


No matter what your body type, a general gauge of your overall health is your body mass index (BMI), which can be simply worked out by using the HealthDirect calculator.

For adults:

  • BMI under 18.5: underweight
  • BMI between 18.5 and 24.9: healthy weight range
  • BMI between 25.0 and 29.9: overweight
  • BMI equal to 30.0 or above: obese.

If you are falling into the overweight or obese range, it’s probably time to consult your doctor or allied health professional about diet and exercise.

Are you concerned about your body type? Does it influence your diet and exercise regime? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: Just a handful of fruits and vegies can fight off frailty

Health disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisherhttp://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/JanFisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.
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