Waist-to-hip ratio, a standard for all body types

Waist-To-Hip Ratio

Find out whether you need to lose weight, based on reliable research. 

Waist-to-hip ratio, a standard for all body typesThe waist-to-hip ratio is an effective health metric for all body types.

The waist-to-hip ratio is a standard for health and beauty across all body types. Regardless of size, the more well-defined a woman’s waist, compared to her hips, the lower her risks of chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes (1-4).

A 2023 UK study found when compared to body mass index, an increase in waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) was more strongly associated with death risk due to cardiovascular disease, cancer, or all causes combined (5).

When you take accurate waist and hip measurements, you can interpret your scores (men & women) according to the most reliable research on WHR, waist-to-height ratio (WHtR), and waist circumference.

For a comprehensive, research-supported guide to body weight and fat distribution, include body mass index with these metrics.

Calculate all the above metrics from your measurements, and you can assess the influence of your weight and size on your health.

Waist-To-Hip Ratio: Women’s Standards and Charts

A distinct difference between the waist and hips has been a central feature in women's beauty standards across cultures for centuries. So how closely does having a beautiful or desirable form relate to your long-term health?

A waist about 2/3 the size of your hips gives you the classic ideal beauty standard, like the well-known measurements of a 24-inch waist with 36-inch hips.

calculate your waist-to-hip ratioCalculate your waist-to-hip ratio by dividing your waist circumference by your hip circumference.
waist to hip ratio, standards for womenComparing the average US woman's measurements with 'ideal', optimal and low risk measurements.

But you don’t have to reach the ideal for optimal health benefits. According to a 2018 study, the lowest health risks are for those with a waist at about 3/4 of their hips or smaller, which would be a 27.5-inch waist or if you have 36-inch hips.

A waist 4/5 of your hips is still low risk. This would be a 29-inch waist if you have 36-inch hips. The numbers change if you have wider hips (1).

The average woman, represented by the star on the chart, has nearly two times the risk of having a heart attack compared to a woman with optimal measurements, according to a 2018 study (1).

 Scientists believe the increased health risk observed in people with larger waists is due to a higher concentration of fat around the internal organs. 

waist-to-hip ratio, women's chartTo see your health risk score, find your hip circumference in the left column and scan to the right to find your waist.

Waist-To-Hip Ratio:  How to measure yourself accurately.

*This video by Why I Exercise guides you through correct waist and hip measurements step-by-step.

To measure your waist, stand upright and maintain normal tension in your waistline. Don't try to suck your waist in or let your belly hang out.

Measure yourself at the level of your navel, turning to the side to ensure the tape is horizontal (not at an angle) all the way around.

When you measure your hips, run the tape around the widest part of your hips. This should be near the mid-buttocks. For both measurements, the tape should run horizontally and fit evenly, contacting the skin around your waist & hips, or your garment, without pinching.

For the most accurate results, measure yourself in no more than one thin layer of clothing.  Repeat two or three times to make sure you have the correct measurement.  

Measure your hip circumference at the widest part of your hipsMake sure your measuring tape runs horizontally, not at an angle.

You may have seen other articles or videos online that call for measuring at the narrowest point of your waist. The reference data for our health standards comes from research using measurements at the navel (1-4).

Take special care to avoid sucking in the upper abdominal wall for a better measurement. If this becomes a habit, it may lead to excessive tension in these muscles, which can cause back pain and dysfunctional breathing patterns. 

Waist-To-Hip Ratio: Men’s Standards and Charts

Waist-to-hip ratio, standards for menComparing measurements of the average US male with optimal and low risk measurements.

Men don’t have a known ideal or most desirable hip measurement, but their optimal waist-to-hip ratio is 0.87 or lower, like a 34.5-inch waist with 39 and 1/2-inch hips (3).

An extra inch on your waist would still be low risk. We don’t have current reference data for men’s hip circumference.

About 30 years ago, the average was 39.5 inches for men. (8) Pairing this measurement with the current average waist gives us a 1.02 waist-to-hip ratio.

According to a 2019 study, an average man has over a 50% greater risk of death due to cardiovascular disease than a peer with optimal measurements.(3) 

Waist-to-hip ratio chart for menTo see your health risk score, find your hip circumference in the left column and scan to the right to find your waist.

Assess the Influence of your weight & Size on your health

You've compared your Waist-To-Hip Ratio to healthy standards. How about the other fitness metrics? Get a comprehensive assessment, including BMI and Waist-To-Height Ratio, with the included charts. (Test your VO2 max too!)

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Waist-To-Hip Ratio vs Waist Circumference and Waist-To-Height Ratio

waist and hip circumference, comparing effects on health riskA large waist with narrow hips is associated with the highest health risks.

Waist-to-hip ratio research has established a proven health advantage, regardless of size, to have a relatively small waist compared to your hip circumference (1-5).

Other studies show health benefits from a smaller size overall (6,10-13). Research on waist circumference and waist-to-height ratio will give us more clarity.   

Waist circumference research is most useful when factoring in other measurements such as BMI, height, or hip circumference. For example, waist-to-height ratio impacts healthy longevity, and the target is easy to remember.

A waist less than half your height will lower your health risks. Research across the globe showed consistent results, regardless of bone structure or body type (10-13).

Waist-to-height ratio: waist less than 1/2 of your heightGet your waist-to-height ratio by dividing your waist by your height.
waist-to-height ratio chart for womenFind your waist measurement in the left column and scan to the right for your height to see your health risk score.

Data from a 2014 study shows that a 5’ 6” woman with a 44-inch waist would live three years less than a peer with equal height and a 37-inch waist (10).

Losing one inch from her waist, however, would improve her life expectancy by a year. 

The men’s chart shows similar benefits for having a smaller waist circumference.

According to research, a 6’ 0” male with a 44-inch waist would expect to live two years less than a peer with equal height and a 40-inch waist (10).

Waist-to-height ratio chart for menThis chart shows the impact of small improvements in your waistline.
Waist circumference and health benefits for women The health advantages of losing inches & the risks of a bigger waist.

Combining the waist circumstance and waist-to-height ratio research data, we can see the potential health advantages over time for the average person who can be consistent with a healthy weight loss program.

If an average woman (39-inch waist) loses 3 and 1/2 inches from her waist, she joins a group that lives a year longer. Another 1/2 inch beyond that, and she reaches the threshold to lower her risk of a heart attack.

Adding inches increases health risks for both women and men, and men can experience similar benefits as women when they lose inches. Learn more about waist circumference and see the men's chart. 

Waist-To-Hip Ratio and Lipedema

Lipedema: how often is excess fat only below the waist?80% of lipedema (excess lower body fat) cases are in people with obesity.

The research data on waist-to-hip ratio, waist circumference, and waist-to-height ratio seems comprehensive for covering the health effects of body fat in the midsection.  But what about the health effects of excess fat in the hips, thighs, and lower legs?

This condition, called lipedema, is much more common in women than men. 

From a health risk standpoint, studies have not shown a direct link between lipedema and the risk of chronic disease or premature death. Fat below the waist appears to be much less risky than fat around the waist, but 80% of people with lipedema also have excess abdominal fat to the level of obesity.

A cause for concern for anyone with lipedema is how heavy legs may limit one's overall ability to exercise and improve fitness (14).

How to burn more calories

If you’re not used to being active, the most effective starting point for weight and fat loss is to add light-intensity exercise throughout your day. For example, a 170-pound man sitting in a chair burns 18 calories every 10 minutes.

If he gets up to sweep, vacuum, or go for a walk, he will burn up to three times the calories. When done regularly, even in short bursts through the day, light activity adds up to more calorie burn than you might imagine.

how to burn more calories with light exerciseComparing the calorie burn between resting and light exercise.
10-minute calorie burn for light to moderate exercises

Here are the 10-minute calorie burn rates for 18 commonly used light and moderate activities.  For a person who isn’t used to exercise, it’s possible to gradually add active hobbies, sports, or workout sessions into your weekly schedule, starting at twice a week or every other day.

Build an active lifestyle that is enjoyable and doable, and you’re much more likely to find a way to keep it on your schedule for the long term, where it will make a real difference.


Waist and hip measurements are the best self-tests to identify excess body fat and the need for weight loss. Using the methods described in this article, you can get a reliable measurement to compare with thoroughly researched and well-established health standards.

Once you know you need to lose inches (and weight), you can use body mass index (BMI) research data to set your goals. The risks of high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, chronic pain, disability, and other conditions were all studied by BMI.

Find out your target weight to lower your health risks and learn how to use activities from everyday life to help with calorie burn in the masterclass articles below.

More Masterclass Articles

Body mass index (BMI)

Learning the health advantages of different sizes and weight groups can help you zero in on what you want for yourself. Take a step toward optimal health with weight goals you can commit to achieving.

Body mass index research helps you set meaningful weight loss goals.

Metabolic Equivalent (MET)

Fine tune your lifestyle for a longer life expectancy and more calorie burn using the activities you enjoy. Create effective training programs from daily life activities, sports, leisure activities, and cardio exercise.

Metabolic Equivalent (MET), compare calories burned walking, running and at rest

Waist circumference

If you find yourself losing inches when you're trying to lose weight, you may be benefitting more than you realize. Find out how much you can improve your healthy longevity with a waist less than half your height or a waist visibly smaller than your hips.

Woman measures her waist circumference


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