What’s Your (Body) Type?

By Jiji Pollock

Do you have a type? As they say, variety is the spice of life. Our human race would be boring if we all looked the same. Lucky for us, humans come in various colors, shapes and sizes. So what’s your somatotype?

What’s your type?

For exercise and health purposes, your shape and size are categorized into a somatotype. Somatotype is a way of describing similarities or differences in the human physique as a whole. You can be 6 feet tall and have a different somatotype from your neighbor who is also 6 feet tall. You also can be 5 feet 2 inches tall and have the same somatotype of another person who is 6 feet tall. Therefore, you cannot categorically “typecast” somatotypes based on height.

In 1967, Barbara Honeyman Heath and J.E. Lindsay Carter, Ph.D. used 10 different body measurements in objectively qualifying somatotypes. Endomorphs are stocky and have a solidly built thickset. Mesomorphs are naturally a little more muscular. Ectomorphs are known for their linear and slender builds. This is how both a 5-foot-2-inch human being and a person who is 6 feet tall also can be ectomorphs. Did you figure out your somatotype? Even if you know your type, it’s important not to “box” yourself in categorically.

Think out of the box—it’s what’s inside that counts

Although studies have shown that there is a genetic predisposition to somatotypes, research has also shown that your environment and lifestyle may impact your body type. Somatotypes merely provide guidelines for your body frame and your predisposition to certain sports. In reality, everybody was made to move, and somatotypes are sometimes important in predicting metabolic health markers such as cardiovascular disease.

Even if your genetics plays a large role in predicting your body frame, you can be overweight, normal weight or underweight and still be at risk in health. Weight scale readings don’t always equate to health, so it’s also important to pay attention to these particular health markers:

  1. Blood pressure: High blood pressure is often undetected. Consistently high blood pressure readings predispose your health to strokes, heart attacks, and kidney and heart failure. Exceedingly high blood pressure may cause vision impairment or lightheadedness and dizzy spells.
    • Systolic readings more than 140 mmHg and diastolic readings more than 90 mmHg indicate high blood pressure.
    • Systolic readings less than 140 mmHg and diastolic readings less than 90 mmHg indicate normal blood pressure.
  2. Blood sugar: Testing your blood sugar levels may indicate whether you’re suffering from pre-diabetes or diabetes. Signs of diabetes may be asymptomatic, yet common symptoms of diabetes include unplanned sudden weight loss, feeling consistently lethargic and extreme thirst or urination.
    • Normal fasting blood sugar levels (no food for eight hours), which is about when you first wake up in the morning, ranges between 80 and 130 mg/dL.
    • About two hours past eating a meal, normal blood sugar levels are about 180 mg/dL.
    • There are different types of blood sugar tests ordered by your doctor such as the AC1 test, fasting glucose test and glucose intolerance test. Indications of diabetes, or prediabetes, depends on the type of laboratory test administered.
  3. Blood cholesterol: Your cholesterol numbers are important because they are one of the indications of your overall health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a large number of people rarely get their cholesterol checked, therefore high readings often go undetected.
    • Total cholesterol readings are made up of LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides.
    • Total cholesterol readings above 200 mg/dL may indicate high cholesterol, predisposing you to strokes or heart disease. Family history plays a significant role in cholesterol. You may be 25 years old and may be predisposed at an early age to high cholesterol numbers if there is a family history of high cholesterol.
  4. Bone health: A bone mineral density (BMD) test is the most accurate way to test your bone health. Low bone density readings indicate whether you’re suffering from osteopenia, which is a sign of losing bone density and weakening of your bones. Over time, consistently suffering from osteopenia leads to osteoporosis. If you suffer from low bone density, you have a greater chance of breaking bones in your body. You may naturally have low bone mass because of genetics yet not suffer from osteoporosis. If you’re older than 65, BMD tests are highly recommended.

Regardless of weight or somatotype, physical activity assists in maintaining blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels and strengthening of bones and maintaining lean muscle mass. Maintaining muscle mass supports your health, especially as you age.

Remember, physical activity can be anything that moves your body, increases your heart rate and gets your blood moving—really anything that gets you out of a chair will make a difference. Incidental physical activity such as taking the stairs, walking to the office water cooler or doing housework around may improve your cardiovascular fitness.  A 2011 study by Robert Ross et al. found that healthy obese participants increased their cardiorespiratory fitness through incidental physical activity.

Where focus goes, energy flows

Focusing on healthy behaviors instead of your weight may help you stay healthy or get healthy. Although somatotype categorizes your body “type,” it doesn’t tell you the difference between body fat and lean muscle mass, or what’s going on inside your body’s systems.

Health is not an established state. It’s the sum of our daily actions that establish your health—it can be lost, yet it also may be gained or regained. Eating nutrient-dense foods, participating in regular physical activity and avoiding tobacco products protect your health status regardless of your somatotype.

Our world is not made to be one size fits all. We come in all shapes and sizes. As human beings, we understand that it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Video credit: South_agency, Getty Images
Photo credit: skynesher, Getty Images; LaylaBird, Getty Images; Adene Sanchez; fizkes, Getty Images


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Jiji Pollock

Jiji Pollock has been in the health and fitness industry for over 25 years and is passionate about helping individuals maintain health through movement and sustainable healthy habits. She works as an Exercise Physiologist, Health and Human Performance Advisor with the Institute of Motion. She began her passion for health and fitness as a group fitness instructor and recreational triathlete as an undergraduate student. Pollock is a certified personal trainer (former Master Trainer at 24 Hour Fitness), holds a M.S. Kinesiology degree and is currently a PhD Candidate in Health and Human Performance at the Concordia University of Chicago. She enjoys swimming, biking, and running and enjoys rock climbing with her three sons. Her second passion is cooking and dark chocolate.