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Waist to height ratio (WtHR) has been found to be a better predictor of ailments such as heart disease and diabetes than body mass index (BMI).  Newish – hmmm Dr Margaret Ashwell has been researching this area for a number of years and
there is substantial evidence to support this.

The advantage of WHtR is that “it is simples” for you to remember; “keep your waist circumference to less than half your height”.  The thinking behind this statement is that it is easier for your brain to retain than its predecessor BMI, because with BMI you have to work out the ratio of your weight in kilograms to your height in metres square, argh mathematics! To make matters worse, you then have to remember what the healthy/ideal/desirable range is – brain overload!

BMI is a useful predictor, the matter of contention is that it does not differentiate between the distribution of fat.This is particularly important as the research suggests that visceral fat, also known as central fat or android fat….stop with the terms – In a nutshell, these simply mean (my favourites), belly fat, pot belly or even beer belly, are significantly more related to cardiovascular risk than peripheral or gynoid fat distribution.

Waist to height works well for all regardless of age and gender.  But, yes, always a but, it is often mistaken with waist to hip ratio which is also another health predictor.

The issue of BMI for many sports performers, is that due to their low body fat percentage and higher muscle percentage, they tend to have a disproportionally higher BMI, but their WtHR is within a healthy range. Research also highlighted that women who have a “pear” rather than an “apple” shape are within the healthy range too.

The formula: Waist to height ratio (WtHR) is calculated by the waist circumference and dividing it by the height.

The process: How? Measure your waist in inches or centimetres, take the measurement just an inch above your belly button.

Then, divide your waist circumference (inches/centimetres) by your height (inches/centimetres).

As an example, a man with a 34 inches waist who is 5’11” tall (71 inches) would divide 34 by 71, to get a WHtR of 0.48.

If using metric :
A man with a 86cm waist who is 1.80m tall would divide 86 by 180, to get a WHtR of 0.48.

WtHR Rating 0.4 – 0.5 is classified as a healthy range.

The healthy range increases slightly the older you get, though at any age a WtHR over 0.6 is cause for concern.

Take note, this assessment does not assess your body fat percentage, it is a simple yet effective tool which is used to predict a variety of health risks.  You can’t alter your height, but you can alter your waist!


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