What does the Waist-to-Hip ratio tell you about your health?

When assessing your weight for either gain or loss, it’s vital that your measurements are correct.

 

Unfortunately, there are many measurement tools which are not reliable, and can lead to frustration and confusion.

 

At HBS, we have had to go through the same frustration and confusion. We’ve tried bioelectrical impedance and we have even attended the course on skinfold callipers. But by going through all this, we have managed to find the most accurate and reliable markers.

 

And one of them is, well, not very exciting…

 

But wait, that’s a good thing! Let us explain why.

Introducing the Waist-to-Hip Ratio

 

Although it may not be exciting, the tool gives us a specific measurement which can be replicated simply and can show real change over a long period of time.

 

This easy-to-measure assessment is known as the Waist-to-Hip ratio (WHR).

 

 

How to measure your WHR

 

The WHR measures the smallest circumference of your waists (about 1cm above the belly button) and the largest circumference of your hips in cm.

 

The waist measurement is then divided by the hip measurement to give you an overall number.

WHR formula

WHR Calculator

Unlike other measurements, the WHR is easy to measure and there aren’t daily fluctuations (assuming consistency in time of day, clothes worn and when the person last ate).

 

This means any changes which have occurred have done so slowly, and therefore are more reliable and valid (in contrast, some measurements like body impedance devices see changes everyday if people drink less/more water for example).

 

 

What can it tell you about your risk of disease?

 

Another benefit of the WHR is it can calculate what risk a person is for developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even mortality!

WHR table

The reason for the risk comes down to visceral fat, which is fat around the organs.

 

Those with an ‘apple’ body shape (more weight carried around the midsection) have higher levels of visceral fat compared to those who have a ‘pear’ body shape (more weight carried around their hips and legs).

Body shape image

Pear shaped body types have higher amounts of subcutaneous fat (that’s fat on the outside of your muscles) which comes with fewer health risks than being an apple shape with higher visceral fat (that’s fat around your organs).

 

 

Seeing the bigger picture

 

Another benefit of WHR is the clarity it can provide through its measurements. Other measurements, such as BMI, do not take into account different body types or tissues of the body (think skinny fat).

For example, a person who is 6 foot tall and weighs 80kg would have a healthy BMI of 23.8. However, the person may eat poorly and do little exercise. Although the person’s weight is low, it is predominately made up of fat versus muscle.

 

By measuring WHR, we can learn if the person is at higher risk for disease due to the amount of fat stored around their midsection.

 

Valuable information like this can be missed without being comprehensive in our approach. This is why our Health Level Calculator is so robust so that we can receive an accurate assessment of a person’s health.

Take-home points

 

WHR is a simple measurement that provides reliable results.

 

Used in conjunction with weight, BMI and progress photos it can give a clear picture of your weight and which areas you can look to improve.