Pear or Apple: Learn How your Body Shape Affects You

Women's bodies come in countless shapes and sizes, which in turn can effect their health and wellness. Here are some of the most well-known body types and what they mean for you.
How your body shape affects you - different shapes and sizes drawing

Women come in all shapes and sizes, from Jyoti Amge, the smallest living woman at just over 62 centimeters in height, to Rumeysa Gelgi, who stands over 7 feet tall. There are many factors that can affect a person’s body shape, including genetics, lifestyle, and age. There are also many ways in which a person’s body shape can affect their health and wellness.

Understanding your body shape and how it affects you can help you in many ways. It can help you hone your exercise routine, refine your wardrobe, and even alert you to possible health problems down the road. There are many different classification systems out there, boasting anywhere from three to twelve body types, and none of them are standardized. Here is a sampling of the more prevalent systems of classifying body types and information on how your body shape affects you. 


Portrait of African mature plump woman sitting in lotus position with her eyes closed and meditating during yoga

The human somatotype was introduced in the 1940s by psychologist William H. Sheldon. He devised a body classification scale based on three fundamental body types, which he termed ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph.


Individuals with a narrow frame, thinner bones, and small joints are typically categorized as ectomorphs. Ectomorphic people have higher metabolisms, making it difficult to gain either fat or muscle, though not impossible. A workout routine that focuses on low-intensity cardiovascular exercises combined with muscle building may be most beneficial for this body shape.

Sheldon claimed these individuals tended to be intelligent, shy, and creative.


People with mesomorphic bodies are said to have an easier time gaining muscle and aren’t particularly prone to developing large fat stores. They are not as slender as those with ectomorphic bodies but tend towards being solid and muscular rather than rounded. Ideal exercise routines for this type of body would engage multiple muscle groups at the same time.

Sheldon associated the mesomorphic body with people who are outgoing, active, and competitive.


The endomorphic individual tends toward roundness. They tend to have larger arms and thighs, rounded heads and shoulders, but slender wrists and ankles. People with this body type have an easier time gaining fat than muscle, so they may benefit from an exercise routine that combines strength training with high-intensity interval training.

According to Sheldon, people with this body shape were lazy and laid-back but generally friendly.

While Sheldon’s theory that posited that different body types resulted in different personality types has since been discredited. Still, the terms ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph are still widely used to describe body types.

Fruit Salad

A multiracial group of three women exercising together outdoors under a bridge on a city waterfront. The two African-American women are in their 40s. Their Pacific Islander friend is in her 30s.

People have been referring to bodies as pear or apple-shaped for decades. These terms reference how different bodies store fat. An apple body shape gains fat around the upper body, while the pear gains fat around the hips and thighs. 

In the late 1980s, researchers began to study the differences between these two body shapes and how the placement of fat affects an individual’s health and wellness. While research is still ongoing, there has been a great deal of progress in understanding how these two body shapes differ medically, and some valuable discoveries have been uncovered. Let’s take a look at both.


Individuals who have a thin upper body but accumulate fat stores around their lower body are considered to be pear-shaped. The pear shape is more commonly seen in women due to the higher levels of estrogen in their blood. Fat that is carried around the hips and thighs is subcutaneous fat and is stored just beneath the skin. A person who carries their fat in their lower body has mostly subcutaneous fat, which has slightly less chance of triggering serious issues like heart disease or diabetes. There is, however, a higher risk of varicose veins and orthopedic issues.


A mature woman sits on a yoga mat on the floor of a gym, as she flexes her bicep and shows off her muscle. She is dressed comfortably in athletic wear as she smiles and looks down at her arm.

People who tend to store their fat around their bellies while their hips and lower body remain thinner are said to be apple-shaped. Women are slightly less likely to have an apple shape than a pear shape. For some women, this can shift after menopause due to the drop in estrogen levels. Subcutaneous fat around the belly is more frequently joined by visceral fat for people with an apple body shape. Visceral fat lies deeper in the body, often surrounding the organs. More visceral body fat can increase the risk of several diseases and disorders, including diabetes, high cholesterol, and stroke.

Every human body is beautiful in its own way, and each comes with its own set of challenges. The more we know about our bodies, inside and out, the better we are able to care for them. While the body types listed here can help further your knowledge about your body, they are not the only body shape systems out there. Understanding your unique body type will help you to better understand what it needs to be healthy and strong no matter how you are shaped.

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