Thin or Lean: What’s the Difference?

Often when we look at other women who are thin or skinny, we immediately think she’s lean. But is that really the case? Does being thin really mean you’re lean too?

In order to answer this question you first have to know what it means to be thin and what it means to be lean.

Defining Lean vs. Thin

Now you can simply define being thin as being small in circumference size. This means a small waist, arms, legs, and chest in diameter, as well as having a low body weight in proportion to your overall height. However, the definition of being lean is more often calculated by the makeup of one’s overall body composition. More specifically, this means someone who has a low body-fat percentage.

Under these guidelines, you’d be surprised to find that many thin women are, in fact, often not lean at all. More often than not, many thin women actually have a much higher body-fat percentage than you’d think!

So, you now you’re wondering… “How’s that possible? Thin women don’t look fat, so how can they have much body-fat?”

Example of Thin and Lean

Imagine two women: Both 40 years old, 5 feet, 7 inches tall and both weighing 120 pounds.

Women #1 has 25% body-fat and a 30″ waist size.
Woman #2 has 15% body-fat and a 27″ waist size.

Although both women will look thin, woman #2 is leaner because she has a lower body-fat percentage.

How could women be the same age, height and weight but one be so much leaner than the other?

How this can happen…

Muscle atrophy is the medical term used for the decrease in the muscle mass that occurs in people who are inactive and or literally starving themselves (think anorexia). Once atrophy begins, muscle loss will be replaced by fat because your metabolism slows down allowing for extra fat storage. This is how a woman by the age 40 to appear thin, but have a higher percentage of body-fat than the leaner woman.

Prevention: Resistance or Strength Training

Many of us walk, jog or cycle for exercise, but resistance training is just as important, especially as you enter your 40s, because aerobic exercise will develop very little muscle, which is why resistance and strength training is a recommended activity for women looking to living a healthy life.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends resistance or strength training 2-to-3 times per week for all relatively healthy people, especially women in their 40s. .

Just because a women is thin doesn’t mean she’s not “fat”, which is why eating a healthy diet and regular exercise are so important. While being overweight carries its own set of health risks, so does having a higher percentage of body-fat… so don’t just aim to be thin, aim to be lean!

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