I recently heard the question “Can I change my body shape?” and thought it was an interesting thing to explore since the answer covers so many areas of how our bodies are made up, and what impact that has on the possibilities for changing our body shape.
What gives my body its shape
While there are many factors that can have a subtle effect on your body shape the greatest overall impact mainly comes from the proportions and distribution of three types of body tissue.
Bones & Joints
Our skeleton has a number of functions such as protecting inner organs, creating blood platelets and storing essential minerals. It’s probably most well-known however for its role in providing shape to the body and enabling movement through our joints.
In adults the individual bones are solid meaning their shape and form is fixed from adolescence. What this means is that there is no reasonable way of changing bone shape.
It is possible for the joints in the body to move and become more, or less flexible depending on the environment in which they operate. Networks of joints such as the spinal column have an impact on body shape in that the “resting position” of our joints defines our posture. The resting position of those joints is caused by the type of joint and the way the muscles and ligaments that surround the joint interact with it.
Basically skeletal muscle is muscle that is attached to the skeleton and makes it move and includes all of the well known muscle groups like biceps and abs. If your body fat is low enough skeletal muscle is visible and has a massive impact on the overall shape of your body.
As skeletal muscles primary purpose is to move our joints it’s make-up can be altered through adaption resulting from stimulation from exercise. Specific types of exercise have a different effect on the adaption the muscle undergoes. For instance moving heavier weight for a shorter period will have a different effect to lighter weights over a prolonged timescale.
It’s often helpful to think about body fat in two forms, subcutaneous and visceral fat.
Visceral fat surrounds the organs and is linked closely with significant health problems. Due to the location of visceral fat it cannot be removed through methods such as liposuction and is only reduced through diet exercise.
Subcutaneous fat is the fat that sits between our muscle and our skin and is visible to a different degrees in different parts of our bodies such as stomach. Subcutaneous fat can be removed through invasive methods such as liposuction. However given the health risks associated with visceral fat which isn’t affected by liposuction all attempts to reduce fat should ideally be as a result of diet and exercise.
So can I change my body shape?
Short answer is yes. However only within the parameters as I’ve mentioned above. Basically to improve your body shape you can build muscle, lose fat or improve posture. Speaking broadly if you achieve success in those areas you will see and likely feel an improvement in your body. That being said focusing too heavily on one area while neglecting the rest is normally not a great strategy. Building muscle while neglecting posture and form for instance is a recipe for injury, or engaging in a severe calorie deficit that reduces muscle as well as fat will reduce the scale number but wont deliver the physical goals most people want.
How do I change my body shape?
Given the areas we discussed above when asking the question “Can I change my body shape?” we’re actually talking more about body composition and posture than anything else. Body composition relates to the ratio within the body between fat, bone, water and lean mass. There are some physical standards associated with body composition that can be helpful to research however for most people, increasing muscle mass while reducing fat and improving posture will provide the most sought after results. To achieve this you need a good well rounded program and nutrition plan. However you go about chasing your goals its always worth bearing these factors in mind.
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