Radio Sandwell Lifestyle News

Why an average physique is best for men

2012-12-10 01:14:42

Physically, are you pretty bog standard?

By which we mean, are you of normal weight and build? Are you nothing like the six-pack sporting hunks who grace the cover of health and fitness magazines? Do you sometimes wish you had a bit more muscle?

If you answer yes to those questions we have some good news. According to a new study conducted in Latvia, average men get the girls. Here's why it's good to have a physique that is nothing to write home about.

Women are attracted to slim men

What the study found was that women tended to be more attracted to slim men than obese men, a result that comes straight out of the encyclopedia of the bleedin' obvious.

But it found something else as well. It found that women are more interested in whether you're thin or fat than whether you're muscled.

To simplify some complex research, the scientists think that being fat can interfere with your immune system, making you more prone to ill health. But high levels of testosterone - perhaps evidenced by huge biceps and an insatiable desire to make them bigger - can have the same effect.

And here's the good bit. When weighing you up as good mating material, women make subconscious judgements about your immunity, because a good immune system will be passed on to any offspring and help to ensure you're around to look after them.

How this all panned out in practice was that when the scientists showed photos of various men to a large group of Latvian women, they found that they tended to view slim men, rather than masculine men, as most attractive.

"We found that a man's weight serves as a better indicator of the relationship between immune response and attractiveness than masculinity does," said lead researcher Vinet Coetzee.

"It is therefore more likely that Latvian women use weight, rather than masculinity, in their subconscious judgements of a man's immunity."

Slender men better bets for women

The latest study seems to confirm earlier research from the University of Queensland in Australia. The researchers showed mock-up advertisements for jeans, skin-care products and cologne - featuring muscular male models and men of more average dimensions - to more than 600 students.

Women didn't find the muscular men any more attractive than the slender men. Lead researcher Phillippa Diedrichs suggests that participants "may have associated the muscular models with vanity..."

"The average-size male models may have seemed less concerned with their appearance," she said.

In other words, the ripped, muscle-bound men may have seemed physically attractive to the women, but their big buff bodies also prompted a range of prejudicial judgements. Muscles equated to vanity and self-centredness, at least in the minds of the women. Taken as a whole, the average-sized guys may have seemed a better bet.

Men overestimate how attractive muscle is

Despite this, men continue to think muscle is a deal maker. It's been estimated that 45% of western men are unhappy with their bodies, and many of them want to put on layers of muscle.

That was confirmed by research from the Biological Psychiatry Laboratory in the US, which asked men in the US, France and Australia to design their ideal body shape using a computer. They overwhelmingly chose a physique with 20-30 lbs more muscle than average.

Then women were asked to design their perfect male body shapes. They tended to choose the average one. In other words, men consistently overestimate how much difference muscle makes to their physical attractiveness.

Exercise is excellent

None of this should be considered as a shot against exercise or, more specifically, the sort of resistance training that tends to generate muscle.

Both cardiovascular and resistance exercise work to make you healthier and more energised, to fight depression and anxiety, and to lose weight. Exercise is the wonder drug we should all be taking.

It also makes you look better, because you look healthier. If that makes you more attractive to women, that's a very happy side effect.

But taken together what all this research suggests is that a side effect is all it should be. Muscle building for the express purpose of attracting women may be a mistake. And when the results don't come, either because building large muscles takes hard work and dedication, or because women don't fall into your lap as a result, exercise can start to seem pointless.

The fact is, obsessing about your physique can get in the way of living your life. When you're out running or spending an hour in the gym, remember that women like slim, healthy men. Having a ripped six-pack is neither here nor there.


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