Human body shape is a complex phenomenon with sophisticated detail and function. The general shape or figure of a person is defined mainly by skeletal structure, muscles and fat. Skeletal structure grows and changes only up to the point at which a human reaches adulthood and remains essentially the same for rest of his or her life.
During puberty, differentiation of the male and female body occurs for the purposes of reproduction. In adult humans, muscle mass may change due to exercise, and fat distribution may change due to hormone fluctuations. Inherited genes play a large part in the development of body shape.
Body shape has effects on body posture and gait, and has a major role in physical attraction. This is because a body’s shape implies an individual’s hormone levels during puberty, which implies fertility, and it also indicates current levels of sex hormones. A pleasing shape also implies good health and fitness of the body. The art of figure drawing defines body proportions that are considered ideal.
1 Skeletal structure
1.1 Facial features
2 Fat distribution, muscles and tissues
2.1 Fat distribution
3 Overweight and underweight
4 Fitness and exercises
5 Clothing and accessories
6 Types and terminologies
7 Impact of body shape on health
8 See also
 Skeletal structureSkeletal structure frames the overall shape of the body and does not alter much over a lifetime. Males are generally taller, but body shape may be analyzed after normalizing with respect to height.
Comparison between a male (left) and a female pelvis (right). Females generally have wide hips. (Images not to scale.)
Broad shoulders and expanded chest (in males)
Widening of the shoulders occurs as part of the male pubertal process. Expansion of the ribcage is caused by the effects of testosterone during puberty. Hence males generally have broad shoulders and expanded chests, allowing them to inhale more air to supply their muscles with oxygen.
Wide hips (in females)
Widening of the hip bones occurs as part of the female pubertal process, and estrogen (the predominant sex hormone in females) causes a widening of the pelvis as a part of sexual differentiation. Hence females generally have wider hips, permitting childbirth. Because the female pelvis is flatter, more rounded and proportionally larger, the head of the fetus may pass during childbirth. The sacrum in females is shorter and wider, and also directed more toward the rear (see image). This affects their walking style, resulting in hip sway; also, females generally stand with hips relaxed to one side.
After puberty, female hips are generally wider than female shoulders; males exhibit the opposite configuration. But not everyone follows this stereotypical pattern of secondary sex characteristics. Both male and female hormones are present in the human body, and though only one of them is predominant in an adult, the other hormone has effects on body’s shape to some extent.
 Facial featuresDue to the action of testosterone, males develop these facial-bone features during puberty:
A more prominent brow bone.
A heavier jaw.
More prominent chin.
Larger nose bone.
Because females have around 20 times less testosterone, these features do not develop to the same extent. Hence female faces are generally more similar to those of pre-pubertal children.
 Fat distribution, muscles and tissues
Females generally store fat in buttocks, hips and thighs due to effect of estrogen, while males store fat around the belly area.Body shape is affected by body fat distribution, which is correlated to current levels of sex hormones. Muscles and fat distribution may change from time to time, unlike bone structure, depending on food habits, exercises and hormone levels.
 Fat distributionEstrogen causes fat to be stored in the buttocks, thighs, and hips in women. When women reach menopause and the oestrogen produced by ovaries declines, fat migrates from their buttocks, hips and thighs to their waists; later fat is stored in the belly. Thus females generally have relatively narrow waists and large buttocks, and this along with wide hips make for a wider hip section and a lower waist-hip ratio compared to men.
Estrogen increases fat storage in the body, which results in more fat stored in the female body. Body fat percentage recommendations are higher for females, as this may serve as an energy reserve for pregnancy. Males have less subcutaneous fat in their faces due to the effects of testosterone; testosterone also reduces fat by aiding fat metabolism. Males generally deposit fat around waists and abdomens (producing an “apple shape”) due to the lack of estrogen.
 MusclesTestosterone helps build and maintain muscles through exercise. Males have around 20 times more testosterone than women. Prominent muscles of the body include the pectoral muscles, biceps and triceps in the arms and quadriceps in the thighs.
See also: Body building
 BreastsFemales have enlarged breasts due to functional mammary glands, which develop from puberty onward due to the effects of estrogen. Mammary glands do not contain muscle tissue. The shape of female breasts is affected by age, genetic factors, and body weight.
 Overweight and underweightBeing overweight or underweight causes change in the human body’s shape as well as posture and walking style. This is measured using BMI or waist circumference. Depending on the BMI, a body may be referred to as slim, overweight, or obese. New computer based measurement such as the BVI specifically take body shape and where weight on the body is distributed, as the basis in determining this.
Dieting, in conjunction with exercise, may by used to bring and keep the BMI within an acceptable range.
The fats and carbohydrates in food constitute the majority of energy used by the body. They are measured cumulatively in the USA and many other places in calories and in kilojoules in some other parts of the world. Though proteins are a major component of food consumed by humans, they mostly aid the growth and repair of tissues and muscles and have comparatively little effect on weight.
 Fitness and exercisesDifferent forms of exercises are practiced for the fitness of the body and also for health. Different forms of exercises include walking, jogging, sports, yoga, aerobics, and weightlifting. It is a common belief that targeted exercise reduces fat in specific parts of the body — for example, that exercising muscles around the belly reduces fat in the belly. This, however, is now proven to be a misconception. But exercising reduces fat throughout the body, and where fat is stored depends on hormones. Liposuction is surgery commonly used to remove fat from the body.
 Clothing and accessoriesSee also: Foundation garments and Dress size
Clothing changes the appearance of the body. Fashion may enhance the shape of the body, while tight jeans, bikinis, bras, belts, corsets, and other garments may support or constrict areas of the body to achieve different proportions. High heeled shoes, generally used by females, also alter body proportions.
Dress size depends on different dimensions. US, European and international standards are common. Different terms used in fashion include petite sizes, full-figured (FFW), size zero, and vanity sizing.
 Types and terminologies
Michelangelo’s David – V-shaped torso is considered attractive.Classifications of female body sizes are mainly based on the circumference of the bust-waist-hip (BWH), as in 34-24-36 (inches) respectively. In this case, the waist-hip ratio is 24/36 = 0.67. Many terms or classifications are used to describe body shape types:
V shape: Males tend to have proportionally smaller buttocks, bigger chests and wider shoulders, which makes for a V-shape of the torso. V-shaped males are considered attractive.
Hourglass shape: The female body is significantly narrower in the waist both in front view and profile view. The waist is narrower than the chest region due to the breasts, and narrower than the hip region due to the width of the buttocks, which results in an hourglass shape.
Apple: The stomach region is wider than the hip section, mainly in males.
Pear or spoon or bell: The hip section is wider than the upper body, mainly in females.
Rectangle or straight or banana: The hip, waist, and shoulder sections are relatively similar.
 Impact of body shape on healthAccording to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, those people with a larger waist (apple shaped) have higher health risks than those who carry excess weight on the hips and thighs (pear shaped). People with apple shaped bodies who carry excess weight are at greater risk of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.
Fat distribution plays an important role in health, some studies suggest that fat in the thighs and hips may be beneficial to ones health.
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