The main reason most of us take up exercise is to improve our body shape. However, few of us succeed at trimming our bellies or keeping our thighs and arms from getting flabby, especially as we age.
Body types are loosely categorised into three main groups, ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph.
These tend to be naturally slender, with a dynamic metabolism that allows them to get away with eating almost any type of food. Models, long-distance runners and basketball players tend to fall in this category, which is not very common.
They tend to be natural athletes, who almost always have defined and toned bodies even though they spend just a little time exercising. They are generally more muscular, shorter, and have stocky limbs. Mesomorphs may find it difficult to lose weight but excel in power sports like soccer and sprinting.
Endomorphs often have to fight to keep their weight down even though they may not be heavy eaters. Their bodies resist losing weight and body fat no matter how restrictive they are with their eating.
In fact, the more they “diet”, the more their metabolisms slows down to resist weight loss. These people are better able to handle long periods of starvation and famine. It is important to note that your body type is hereditary, so there is nothing you can do to change it. Therefore, the best you can do is to understand your strengths and limitations and find a way to work within these.
As a general rule, anyone looking to lose weight should engage in prolonged, low-intensity cardiovascular activities such as walking or jogging. This is because these activities are sustainable for long periods and allow you to not only burn more calories, but also fat because your body is working within the “fat-burning zone”. The ideal is to maintain a pace at which you can just barely maintain a normal conversation with your exercise partner.
The reverse applies to ectomorphs, who have to struggle to gain even a little weight. The ideal way for ectomorphs to change their body shape is to engage in resistance training like lifting weights or doing press-ups or squats.
The idea is to ensure that you gain quality weight in the form of toned muscle rather than adipose (fat) tissue that only places you at a higher risk of developing diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes.
One of the most effective ways to change your body shape is to develop a good proportion between, say, your hips, waist and shoulders. Also, remember that physical attractiveness involves more than body shape and size; it also matters how you present yourself, or whether you are a fun person to be with.
Besides, there are things you can do to improve your appearance without focusing exclusively on your body. It is much better to invest time and money in yourself in ways that make you feel good and avoid spending money on diets.
This story was first published in Daily Nation
If you train specific muscles, these will increase in mass. So targeting specific muscle groups, as body builders do, can shape your body.
If you only do repetitive cardio exercise in the gym on equipment such as treadmills, a cross trainer or an exercise bike, only the large muscle groups you use to move will get stronger and increase in size.
So running on a treadmill may make your bottom (gluteus maximus), hamstrings, quadriceps (front thighs) and calf muscles bigger; and using a cross trainer will work the same leg muscles, as well as target the muscles in the chest, back and shoulders that push and pull.
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