Waist to Hip Ratio - Wells Chiropractic Corp. (2023)

Measuring your waist is a lot easier and cheaper (not to mention less painful) than getting your cholesterol tested, but it reveals much the same information. As a healthcare consumer, I've always wanted to be able to carry out simple tests and treatments for health conditions at home. Here's one I want to share with you.

As an absolute measurement, the waist for women should not exceed 35 inches. For men, the upper limit is 40 inches. Why this? The Nurses Health Study was one of the largest and longest studies looking at the association between waist size and death from heart disease in middle-aged women. This 16-year study of 44,000 women found that women with a waist measurement of 35 inches or more had almost twice the risk of dying from heart disease compared to women with the smallest waist measurement (28 inches or less). Double.I

In addition, women with the largest waists had a similarly high risk of dying from cancer and all causes compared to women with the smallest waists. The risks steadily increased with every extra centimeter around the waist.

A normal weight and large waist won't help. In fact, normal-weight women with a waist of 35 inches or more had three times the risk of dying from heart disease compared to normal-weight women whose waists were less than 35 inches. Triple.

While you've got your tape measure out, let's talk waist-to-hip ratio. By measuring your waist and hips, you can compare the numbers and find your waist-to-hip ratio.

waist to hip ratio

The World Health Organization states that abdominal obesity is defined as a waist-to-hip ratio greater than 0.90 for males and greater than 0.85 for females. The difference between the sexes is because women usually have bigger hips than men.

The ratio is: waist in inches divided by hips in inches.

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For example, a woman with a 28 inch waist and 36 inch hips would have a ratio of 28/36 = 0.77 (well below 0.85). As you can imagine, she would be considered attractive. This is because we are attuned to expecting fertility and better health outcomes with a healthy waist-to-hip ratio. If a taller woman measured 32 inches waist and 44 inches hips, the ratio would be 32/44 = 0.72 (an even better ratio). As you can see, a ratio takes into account people of different heights. It's only when the proportions are roughly the same, or when the waist is larger than the hips, that we have problems. In the first example above, let's assume that the woman with 36 inch hips gained weight so that her waist was 34 inches and her hips were 37 inches. 34/37 = 0.92 (This is above the safe limit of 0.85).

Despite many women's fear of having large hips, they do not pose any adverse health consequences. Hips (under the influence of progesterone) store water and fat because childbirth and breastfeeding require a lot of both. Big hips aren't a problem for your health and are considered sexy in most cultures (with good reason, as they also signal fertility).

After smoking, abdominal obesity is the largest modifiable risk factor for all major modern-day killers. Most premature deaths are related toMetabolic Syndrome. Waist measurement and waist-to-hip ratio are the easiest ways to monitor these risks.

So how do we measure?

You will need a fabric tape measure (metal tape measures just don't conform to your shape well enough). To measure your waist, slide your hands down the sides to reach your last rib. This should be the smallest part of your waist. Note that this is above the level of your belly button, not the waist of your jeans. Wrap the measuring tape around this circumference and take your measurement.

Waist to Hip Ratio - Wells Chiropractic Corp. (1)To measure your hips, find the bones on the sides of your hips and wrap the tape measure around them at that height. Holding the tape measure straight will enclose much of the muscular part of your butt. The fatter part of your butt (if any) is below this level.

Waist to Hip Ratio - Wells Chiropractic Corp. (2)The fact that you always use bony landmarks to measure yourself means your measurements can be consistent over time. I would not recommend measuring more than once a week as changes are very slow. As you can see from the statistics above, these are very important measures of longevity and good health.


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Another commonly used measure is the body mass index (BMI). This is the measure used by the government and life insurance companies to determine if you are underweight, normal, obese, or morbidly obese. The formula compares your height and weight. This method has advantages and disadvantages. One downside is that this method categorizes very muscular individuals, such as weightlifters, as obese even though they may have very little body fat. They simply have more muscle than most people. No problem. Muscle is like money in your metabolic bank.

However, BMI has some advantages. One is that it is easy to get the information. The average person usually knows their height and weight. The big advantage, however, is that it is more accurate than measuring waist and hips for the morbidly obese. This is because as the person gets fatter, the person's abdomen sags below the waistline. To find out your BMI, fill in the following fields:

ThatnormalThe BMI for both men and women is between 18.5 and 24.9. If you fall into this range, congratulations - keep up your healthy lifestyle.

If your BMI is below 18.5, you will be consideredunderweight. This is not good. Being underweight is associated with an increased risk of premature death. Sometimes being underweight is caused by other conditions such as anorexia, malnutrition/malabsorption syndromes, smoking, cancer, lung or gastrointestinal diseases. There's such a thing as being too skinny.

If your BMI is between 25 and 30, you are consideredoverweight. Health risks increase with increasing weight. A BMI of 25 to 27.5 is associated with a 7% increased risk of premature death. A BMI of 27.5 to 30 correlates with a 20% higher risk.

If your BMI is between 30 and 39.5, you are classified asoverweight.A BMI between 30 and 35 corresponds to a 45% increased risk of premature death. A BMI of 35 to 40 is associated with a 94% increased risk of premature death!

If your BMI is over 40, you are classified asmorbidly overweight. A BMI in the range of 40 to 60 equates to a nearly three-fold increase in the risk of premature death.ii

body composition

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Perhaps the best measure of fitness is found by looking at the ratio of your weight to your waist size. This is especially important for people who are starting to exercise and find that their "clothes fit better" but they haven't lost much or any weight. The reason for this is that muscle weighs more than fat. If exercise helps you build muscle while losing fat, your weight on the bathroom scale doesn't reflect your fat loss. That can be discouraging.

The most important measure of fat loss is waist reduction. Muscle building is reflected in gains in the chest, arms, back, buttocks and legs - not the waist. In fact, as muscle tone increases in the abdomen, the waist becomes slightly narrower. You can measure the circumference of your arms and legs to track specific increases in muscle size if you're a bodybuilder, but for most of us total weight versus waist is the easiest measurement. This allows us to know our percentage of body fat and our percentage of lean mass. Let's try this;

Most people rely on bathroom scales to measure success in achieving a healthy weight. It may be dangerous. If you lose weight without reducing your waistline, you will lose muscle mass. Muscle burns fat. The less muscle you have, the less fat you burn. For this reason, people who go on starvation diets generally become fatter than when they started eating normally. Your burn rate has decreased.

I suggest you enter a target weight (e.g. from when you felt your best or from the BMI calculator) into the body composition calculator above and see how that affects your body fat percentage. Then enter progressively lower waists until you reach a healthy body fat percentage. The calculator will show you how much muscle mass you need to build and how much fat you need to lose. Remember that your target waist is the most important part of this equation. This knowledge can help you plan a good nutrition and exercise program, and also help you track how well you are meeting your goals.

So what is a good body fat percentage? The answer is different for men and women. The following areas are suggested byAmerican Council for Fitness.

First, there is an essential amount of body fat without which your body would not function well. In men, this value is between 2 and 5%. For women it is between 10 and 13%.

Competitive athletes aim for a body fat percentage of 6-13% for men and 14-20% for women.

Fit individuals range from 14-17% body fat in men and 21-24% in women.

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The average body fat percentage of a person ranges from 18-24% for men and 25-31% for women.

Obese men have more than 25% body fat and obese women have more than 32% body fat.

Some experts believe that body fat percentage usually increases with age. I'm sure it does, just as surely as tree rings increase the girth of trees every year, but I don't know if it's helpful. Every extra pound of fat adds 3 to 7 miles of blood vessels for our heart to push against. This can't be good.

Visit this page as often as you like to track your progress. Changing your body composition is challenging. All of us at Wells Chiropractic wish you the best in achieving your health goals.

David Wells, DC, L.Ac., MS (Nutrition)

IZhang C, Rexrode KM, van Dam RM, Li TY, Hu FB. Abdominal obesity and the risk of all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality: sixteen-year follow-up in US women.


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