If it feels like you can’t scroll through social media posts, watch a movie, or thumb through a magazine without being bombarded with the message that skinnier is better, you’re not alone.

While the images of skinny models, super-fit Instagram stars, and size zero actresses continue to gain momentum, a study published in the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology, and Education points to a different reality for the majority of women.

The 2016 study found that the average American woman wears between a Misses size 16-18. This means the majority of women are curvier and have wider hips than the images they see. This is an important message since many women struggle to see and appreciate the power of their bodies.

Read on to learn more about the advantages of wide hips, and ways you can tone your hips and boost your curves.

The advantages of wide hips

The truth is, it’s healthy for women to have curves, especially since hips have a biological purpose.

“Women are built completely different than men, and it’s for a biological purpose,” explains Dr. Heather Bartos, a board-certified OB-GYN.

While many women covet a straight, narrow-hipped body, Bartos says those curves, or what we used to call “birthing hips,” actually provide a genetic advantage. In other words, big hips, and this includes the booty, allow for easier passage of a baby.

Also, Bartos says that fat distribution in the buttocks area shows that healthy estrogen is present, unlike central obesity in the midsection. Fat around the middle is associated with “bad” estrogen that can cause cardiovascular disease and difficulty with getting pregnant.

How to lose hip fat

Embracing the body you have and understanding that wide hips are normal and healthy is the first step on your journey.

And while the overall structure and shape of your hips can’t be changed, if you would like to accentuate your curves and tone the muscles around your hips, there are healthy and safe ways to do so.

Although you can’t spot-reduce fat in just one area of your body, you can trim hip fat by losing overall body fat. You can do this through regular fat-burning exercises, cutting back on calories, and toning your lower body. Let’s look at some of the options.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

HIIT requires you to do all-out, high-intensity exercise in short bursts. The intense bursts of exercise are alternated with short rest periods.

The goal of this type of training is to get your heart rate up so you burn calories in half the time of moderate-intensity cardio.

HIIT increases the oxygen demands on your body. According to the American Council on Exercise, the more oxygen you consume, the more calories you burn.

Another benefit with this type of exercise is that your body continues to burn calories at a faster rate even after you’re done working out.

Compound exercises for your lower body

Research has shown that resistance training exercises can improve your lean muscle mass. When resistance exercises are combined with a healthier diet, it may help you tone your muscles and lose fat, too.

Some examples of resistance exercises for your lower body include:

  • squats
  • lunges
  • step-ups with weight

Try to do 12 to 15 repetitions per set. Aim for two to three sets.

These exercises all target the major muscles in your lower body. By focusing on hip-related movements, you not only strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, and quads, but you also burn calories. This may result in leaner, more toned hips.

Bodyweight exercises that target your hips

On those days when going to the gym is not an option, you can still get a great lower body workout with just your body weight. To target your hips, make sure to include the resistance exercises mentioned above, as well as:

  • wall sits
  • bridges
  • skater squats
  • reverse leg lift

Aim for 15 to 20 reps per set, for three sets. If you’re a beginner, start with fewer reps and sets, and then add more as you build your lower body strength.

Climbing stairs

According to the American Council on Exercise, climbing stairs can burn about three times more calories than going for a walk. It’s also a great exercise for working all your hip and leg muscles.

By targeting the muscles of your lower body and burning calories at a high rate, this type of workout may be helpful with reducing overall body fat, including extra weight on your hips.

Stair climbing exercises can be done indoors or outdoors. You can use the stair climber machine at the gym, or you can look for a parking garage or outdoor stadium that has flights of stairs that you can run up and down.

Healthy diet and reduction of calories

Burning more calories through targeted exercises and following a healthy diet can help you lose total body fat. Be sure to follow a diet that focuses on eating whole foods from a variety of food groups. Pay attention to your portion sizes, too.

Slow and steady is the goal when it comes to weight loss. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a weight loss of one to two pounds each week. You can do this by burning more calories than you consume.

The bottom line

Having narrow hips is not better or healthier. In fact, wider hips may be more beneficial, especially for women. That said, participating in a fitness program that reduces overall body fat and includes exercises to target your lower body can result in leaner hips.