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Waist-to-hip ratio: what should we be aiming for?

Waist-to-hip ratio: what should we be aiming for?

Published on 8th Jun, 2022

Waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) is a measurement that can be used as an indicator of a person’s risk for a number of chronic health conditions. The commonly used body mass index (BMI), which looks at the ratio of your weight to your height, is often opined to be an imperfect measure. WHR can provide a better estimate of how much fat is stored in your abdominal (belly) area, relative to the hip and buttock area.

Research has shown that people who are ‘apple-shaped,’ therefore store more fat around their abdomen, have a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes in comparison to ‘pear-shaped’ people, who carry more fat around their hips [1]. This is because those with a larger waist circumference are likely to have higher levels of visceral fat, the type of fat that surrounds internal organs, which contributes to the development of these diseases.

Knowing your WHR can therefore provide you with an idea of your risk of poorer health. In this article we’ll be looking at the ideal ratios for men and women. We’ve also included a simple step-by-step guide on how you can calculate your own waist-hip ratio.

What should we be aiming for?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), men should aim for a waist-hip ratio of 0.9 or less and for women, 0.85 or less [1].

A waist-hip ratio of 0.91 or higher for men and 0.86 or higher for women is associated with an increased risk of dying early.


How can I measure my waist-to-hip ratio?

To find out your waist-to-hip ratio, you’ll need a measurement of both the circumference of your waist and of your hips.

  1. To measure your waist, begin by standing up straight and relaxing your stomach. You’ll want to be measuring the midpoint between your lowest rib and your hip bone, somewhere just above the naval. You can note down the measurement in either cm or inches, whichever you prefer, as long as you are consistent.
  2. For your hip measurement, measure the widest part of the buttocks.
  3. Calculate your WHR by dividing your waist measurement by your hip measurement.

How can I lower my waist-to-hip ratio?

You can lower your waist-to-hip ratio by losing abdominal fat. Of course, adjusting your diet and exercise can help with losing weight in general, however a low carbohydrate diet may be the most effective method for many people to lose belly fat and improve their WHR. Fat around the belly is sometimes nicknamed the ‘insulin tyre’, meaning a high insulin level drives fat storage around the middle. Eating fewer carbs can lower your insulin levels and encourage your body to tap into and reduce those fat stores around your middle.

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