When it comes to your health, it’s not all about your size. Where you carry your weight plays a bigger role than you might think in determining your risk for health problems, like diabetes and heart disease.
We all know about BMI, or body mass index, and consider it an important tool for those trying to lose or gain weight. However it doesn’t tell us the full story about body composition and where we store the fat. Therefore other measurements, like waist to hip ratio and waist circumference, can be as important, if not more so than BMI in determining these health risks.
Get out the measuring tape and let’s find your WHR!
Waist-To-Hip Ratio Explained
Determining your waist-to-hip ratio is simple; the only tool you need is a measuring tape.
First, measure the circumference around your waist. This is the part of your midsection in line with your navel.
Then, measure the circumference around the widest point of your hips.
Divide the first number by the second number; this is your waist-to-hip ratio
What Does It Mean?
The waist-to-hip ratio is an easy way to tell where your body tends to store and carry fat—your waist (which would lead to a higher ratio) versus your hips (which would lead to a lower ratio).
The higher your waist-to-hip ratio, the greater your risk for heart disease and stroke. So, if you carry weight around your waist, you have more of an apple shape, and are statistically at a higher risk. If you carry weight around your hips and buttocks, you have a pear shape and are at a lower risk.
Experts say a waist-to-hip ratio of less than 0.85 for women and 0.90 for men is associated with a relatively low risk. If your ratio is greater than 1.0 for both men and women, you are considered to be at a significant risk for conditions like diabetes, coronary heart disease and high blood pressure.
What Can You Do About It?
If you have an apple shaped body rather than a pear shaped body, it could be something you’ve inherited and don’t have much physical control over, or acquired by lifestyle. In either case, there are steps you can take to keep your weight in check overall, which will bring your waist-to-hip ratio down.
- Eat a nutritious diet. Cut down on sugar, white grains and alcohol. Read nutrition labels, and use a meal tracking app like Mealviser to help you eat a more balanced diet. For more on maintaining a healthy diet, check out this post.
- Engage in regular physical exercise. Moderate aerobic exercise can play a dramatic role in reducing fat around your belly.
- Practice strength training. You don’t have to belong to a gym! There are plenty of DVDs for at-home strength training using free weights or your own body weight. The CDC also has a free online library of safe exercises to practice at home.
- Walk it out. In one study, people who spent two hours per day walking or standing rather than sitting still had waistlines that were an average of three inches smaller. The group of standers/walkers also were healthier overall and had a lower risk of heart disease.
Losing just a few inches from your waist can significantly reduce your risk for health problems later in life! Now that you know your waist-to-hip ratio, take steps to improve or maintain it for a better chance of a long and healthy life.