Calc

What Is Waist-to-Hip Ratio?

Article Category: Health  |   


The human body is one of the most diverse shapes in the animal kingdom. You might veer towards lean and lithe, meaty and muscular, or soft and squishy, but it can be difficult to categorise our fleshy physical vessels in a truly meaningful way.

We have tried, of course, with some decent results, such as the BMI approach (body mass index), which gives you a number in double digits to tell you where your weight sits on the scale of healthiness - although it doesn't account for various issues such as ethnicity, and muscle weighing more than fat. There's also the BMR system, which calculates your basal metabolic rate to tell you, personally, just how many Twixes you can eat before gaining weight. And then there's the waist-to-hip ratio. This is quick and easy to work out using just a tape measure (or a length of string and a ruler) and it's well supported in scientific fields as an indicator for major health risks.

Lady measuring her waist

How to calculate your WHR

To work out your own waist-to-hip ratio, you first need to get the measurements of your... (drum roll) .... waist and hips! That may be flippantly worded, but don't be slapdash about it, as even a few cm wrong could land you in an incorrect risk category.

Use your tape measure to measure midway between your lowest rib and the top of your hips - it should be the part just above your belly button. Don't suck your tummy in: you've got nothing to gain from an inaccurate calculation. Gently breathe out and measure with the tape pulled snugly against your skin, though not digging or pulling in. Make sure the tape sits flat all the way around, as diagonal slippage will falsely increase the measurement. Note down your waist measurement. Our calculator juggles both metric and imperial, so either is fine... Though please note that if you've measured in furlongs, you almost certainly fit within the high risk category.

Next, measure your hips at the widest point around the buttocks. Again, hold the tape snugly but don't pull it in, and make sure it's level all the way around. Note down your hip measurement.

Illustration of waist to hip ratio measurements
How to measure waist-to-hip measurements. Image credit: Mikael Haggstrom.

Now there's a simple sum (even easier if you use our gadget): take the waist measurement and divide it by the hip measurement. If you're doing this by hand, make sure your units are the same for both measurements.

You'll end up with a number that helps you determine which body shape category you fit into. Body shape is a reliable indicator of health risks.

Example

  • Waist measurement: 92cm (36.22 inches)
  • Hip measurement: 112cm (44 inches)

To calculate your waist-to-hip ratio: 92 / 112 = 0.82.

What does your WHR mean?

Women with a ratio of 0.8 or below, and men at 0.95 or below are pear shaped. People with pear shaped bodies are in the lower risk category for health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer. In pear shaped bodies, fat tends to gather around the hips and buttocks, rather than the waist. This is purely down to genetics. However, The NHS notes that even pears are at higher risk if their waist measurement exceeds 37 inches / 94cm for men, or 31.5 inches / 80cm for women.

Women with a ratio of 0.85 or above, and men with a ratio of 1.0 or above are considered to have apple shaped bodies. Fat tends to gather around the middle, and apple shaped bodies face a high risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and even some types of cancer. Even people with a moderate BMI may find that the weight they do carry is around their middle.

People whose ratios fall between these apple and pear thresholds are at moderate risk of health problems, and are sometimes called avocados. All of this information is referenced from the NHS and Wiley.

And the lesson in all this? Regardless of shape, we should probably all have more apples, pears and avocados in place of all those Twixes.

Written by Becky Kleanthous




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Last update: 30 January 2018


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