If you’re like most people, you probably think that your hips and waist are about the same size. After all, they’re both located at approximately the same level on your body. However, this guess is wrong.
Your hips and waist are actually two very different things. Your hips are the bony prominences at the sides of your pelvis, while your waist is the narrowest part of your torso, located between your ribs and hips.
So why does it matter how you measure your hips and waist? Because these two areas of your body can vary significantly in size, and this can impact the fit of your clothing. If you’re shopping online it’s especially important to know your measurements so you can choose the right size.
But your hips vs. waist measurement isn’t only important for shopping purposes. The ratio is an indicator of your overall health. A high waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes (5).
Here’s everything you need to know about taking accurate measurements of your hips and waist, plus how to calculate your waist-to-hip ratio.
Measuring Hips Vs. Waist: How To Do It Correctly?
Use a soft, flexible measuring tape for both measurements. Stand with your feet together and relaxed, and make sure the tape is level all the way around.
For your hip measurement, place the tape around the widest part of your hips and buttocks, making sure to keep the tape parallel to the ground. Relax your stomach muscles and take a deep breath in before exhaling and taking the measurement.
To measure your waist, find the narrowest part of your torso, typically located just above your navel. Again, make sure the tape is level and keep it parallel to the ground. Breathe normally as you take the measurement.
Avoid these mistakes that might give you incorrect measurements:
- Pulling the tape too hard that it’s cinched in at your waist or hips
- Measuring on top of multiple layers of clothing
- Not relaxing your stomach muscles when measuring your waist
- Letting the tape slide down your hips instead of keeping it level
Now that you know how to measure your hips and waist correctly, you can calculate your waist-to-hip ratio.
Read More: Yoga Poses For Hips: Giving Your Lower Body A Good Stretch!
How To Calculate Your Waist-To-Hip Ratio?
Once you have your measurements, divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. For example, if your waist measures 28 inches and your hips measure 36 inches, then your waist-to-hip ratio would be 0.77.
A healthy waist-to-hip ratio is considered to be 0.95 or less for men, and 0.80 or less for women (13). A ratio above these values indicates an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes (5) (12).
Of course, your waist-to-hip ratio is just one part of the picture when it comes to your overall health. Other factors such as family history, diet, and lifestyle also play a role.
But if you have a high waist-to-hip ratio, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk of chronic disease.
Why It Matters: The Importance Of Knowing Your Hips Vs. Waist Ratio
Research shows that approximately one-third of adults in the United States are considered obese (7). Moreover, while there are many contributing factors to obesity, one of the most important is an individual’s waist-to-hip ratio (WHR).
Your WHR is simply a measure of how much fat is stored around your waist compared to your hips. It’s calculated by dividing your waist circumference by your hip circumference.
A high WHR has been linked to an increased risk of obesity-related diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. In fact, the CDC notes that a man with a WHR greater than 0.9 (or a woman with a WHR greater than 0.8) is considered at an increased risk for these conditions (2).
Knowing your WHR can be a helpful tool in managing your weight and overall health. That’s because it can give you a better idea of where you need to focus your weight-loss efforts.
For example, if you have a high WHR, you may need to lose more weight around your waist to reduce your health risks. While you can’t spot reduce fat, targeted exercise and healthy eating can help you slim down overall and improve your WHR.
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What To Do If You Have A High WHR?
If you have a high WHR, there are steps you can take to lower it and improve your health, such as:
Reducing Your Food Portions
One simple way to help slim your waistline is to reduce the amount of food you’re eating at each meal (14). This doesn’t mean you have to starve yourself or eliminate all your favorite foods. Just be mindful of how much you’re putting on your plate and aim to eat until you’re satisfied, not stuffed.
Improving The Quality Of Your Meals
Always prioritize nutrient density over calorie density. What this means is that you should focus on eating foods that are packed with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients while being relatively low in calories. These include fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Cutting Out Unhealthy Foods
Processed foods, sugary drinks, and refined carbs are some of the worst offenders when it comes to expanding your waistline (1). If you’re serious about slimming down, cutting out these unhealthy foods is a must.
Regular exercise is another key component of weight loss (8). When it comes to improving your WHR, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and other forms of cardio exercise are particularly effective. This is because they can help you burn more calories and target belly fat specifically.
Adding strength training to your routine is also beneficial, as it can help you build muscle and improve your body composition (6). Having a higher muscle-to-fat ratio can help lower your WHR even further.
Read More: 12 Simple Exercises To Slim The Hips And Waist
Increasing Your Non-Exercise Activity
In addition to exercise, there are other things you can do to increase your daily calorie burn. This includes everything from standing more often to taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Such non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) can help you burn more calories and slim down over time (11).
Getting Plenty Of Sleep
Getting enough sleep is important for overall health and can also help with weight loss (9). This is because sleep deprivation can lead to increases in hunger and cravings for unhealthy foods.
So aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night and create a relaxing bedtime routine to help you wind down before turning in.
Reducing Stress Levels
Chronic stress can lead to weight gain, so it’s important to find ways to manage it (3) (10).
One effective way to do this is through regular meditation or mindfulness practices (4). Taking some time out of your day to focus on your breath and be in the present moment can help calm your mind and ease your stress.
The Bottom Line
Getting accurate hip vs. waist measurements is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to managing your weight and overall health. However, it can be a helpful tool in identifying areas where you need to focus your efforts.
If you have a high WHR, making lifestyle changes can help lower it and improve your health. Try implementing some of the tips above to get started.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Consumption of ultra-processed foods associated with weight gain and obesity in adults: A multi-national cohort study (2021, sciencedirect.com)
- Discriminatory Capacity of Anthropometric Indices for Cardiovascular Disease in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (2020, cdc.gov)
- Effects of Chronic Social Stress on Obesity (2012, link.springer.com)
- Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies – ScienceDirect (2011, sciencedirect.com)
- Genetic Association of Waist-to-Hip Ratio With Cardiometabolic Traits, Type 2 Diabetes, and Coronary Heart Disease (2017, jamanetwork.com)
- Increasing Lean Mass and Strength: A Comparison of High Frequency Strength Training to Lower Frequency Strength Training (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Obesity: Risk factors, complications, and strategies for sustainable long‐term weight management (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Role of Physical Activity for Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Sleep and obesity (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Stress and Obesity: Are There More Susceptible Individuals? (2018, link.springer.com)
- The Role of Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis in Human Obesity (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio as predictors of cardiovascular events: meta-regression analysis of prospective studies (2007, academic.oup.com)
- WAIST-TO-HIP RATIO: AN INDICATOR OF HEALTH (2021, researchgate.net)
- What is the role of portion control in weight management? (2014, nature.com)