Unit 4 > Unit 4 > Waist to hip ratio(WHR)


Waist to hip  ratio (WHR)  

Everyone would like to be fit and active but some individuals become obese and this creates many lifestyle related diseases.  The body mass index on it’s own is not a good guide to find out who is most at risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease.  It is possible to have a high BMI and a normal waist measurement  but be fit and active e.g. a fit, lean, muscular man..  Waist to hip ratio(WHR) is considered to be more accurate measure of any future health problems  because it matters where an individual carries any excess weight.

An individual’s health is not just affected by the amount of body fat but also by where most of the fat is distributed in the body.  .  Those individuals with more weight around their waist, apple shape,  are at greater risk of lifestyle related diseases such as heart disease and diabetes  than those with weight around their hips, pear shape.   The  tendency to store fat around the waist or hips is inherited. This does not mean that an individual has a greater health risk it means they need to bear it in mind and have a healthy lifestyle and keep their weight within normal limits.   An individual can have control over this by keeping their weight healthy.  To achieve this they should eat healthily, exercise and have healthy lifestyle habits e.g. not smoking, low alcohol intake.                

Apple shape individuals store excess fat around their waist (midriff, abdomen, tummy). They have an increased risk of:  

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • High blood pressure

Pear shaped individuals store excess fat around their hips(buttocks, bottom, thighs) They have a risk of:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • High blood pressure

The method ‘Hip waist ratio’ helps in assessing an individual’s health risk.  It indicates an individual’s probable health risk.  If the waist to hip ratio is less than 0.85 in a woman or less than 0.90 in a man then those individuals have a fairly low risk of lifestyle related diseases.  Those individuals who have a ratio greater than 1.00 have a high risk of lifestyle related diseases.


  • The individual must give their consent for their waist to hip ratio  to be measured
  • Reassure the individual that the result is confidential
  • Make sure the individual is not embarrassed, they may prefer to take their own measurements .
  • If measuring an individual’s WHR is likely to affect them emotionally or psychologically then use a different physical measure for the controlled assessment.
  • It can be deceiving when used with younger individual’s as all individuals develop at different rates, so, it needs to be used with caution with any individual under the age of 18 years.
  • If an individual is in the high risk WHR category advise them to see their GP to discuss any lifestyle changes.

Measuring waist to hip ratio (WHR)


  • A soft measuring tape and a calculator
  • Slowly breathe out but don’t hold in the stomach
  • Measure the waist circumference around the narrowest point between the hips and ribs, in centimetres cm.  Do not pull the tape too tight.
  • Measure the hips  around the widest part  the hips, in centimetres cm.
  • Divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement.  Which gives the WHR and then look in the table to see the probable health risk for the individual.

For example:

Waist measurement 88cm(34.5 inches)

Hip measurement 104cm(41 inches)

The calculation is 89 divided by 104 = 89 = 0.85 (WHR)  Moderate risk    104

Male Female Health risk based on WHR
0.95 or < less 0.80 or < less Low risk
0.96 to 1.0 0.81 to 0.85 Moderate risk
1.0 or > greater 0.86 or > greater High risk

A calculator for WHR can be found here http://www.stocksurgery.co.uk/waisthipcalc.htm