Clint Schambach, CSCS -
It is time to stop looking at your problem areas as just a little extra fat in your midsection. These areas where you store your fat can be a big indicator on future or current health risks. In fact, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that when compared to body mass index (BMI), your waist to hip ratio can be a far better indicator of your health risks. This is due to the fact that your BMI is a simple comparison of your height and weight, and can be easily thrown off if you carry a large amount of muscle weight. However, your waist to hip ratio shows a much clearer picture of how much fat your body is carrying, and these are when problems arise. The World Health Organization has stated that if a waist to hip ratio is used rather than a person’s BMI, the proportion of people categorized for risk of heart attack increases threefold.
Many people will justify these problem areas to themselves as just a little pooch belly or beer belly. If your hips or your stomach are not in a good ratio to other measurements on your body, it can mean you are at high risk for diabetes or insulin resistance. It can also increase your risk for certain types of cancer such as ovarian or testicular cancer, depending on your sex. Also sleep apnea, high blood pressure, stroke and a whole list of others.
For men, the measurements can be taken in a couple different ways. Men can choose to do a stomach to chest ratio or a waist to hip ratio, both of which can be a better indicator than a simple BMI measurement. When it comes to stomach to chest ratio for men, most literature says to keep this ratio around .9. It’s not really a good idea to go much over that. However, since it is not uncommon for men to do a lot of chest and upper body workouts, this measurement can also be skewed. It is very common to see men with body a large chest and a large stomach measurement. So I challenge men to be honest with themselves and use the waist to hip ratio. All you do is measure the smallest circumference of your natural waist, which is usually about an inch above your belly button. Then measure the widest circumference of your buttocks. You want to be relaxed and read the measurement at the end of a normal exhalation. Simply divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. A ratio below .95 means you have a estimated low health risk. Between .96 to 1.0 means a moderate risk, and anything above 1.0 puts you at a high risk. Also, anything over a 40 inch waist for men puts you at a serious risk no matter what the hip or chest measurement is.
For Women, it is a much better idea to use the waist to hip ratio. This is mainly due to the fact that large chest women can skew their results to a large degree. Women will follow the same measurement guidelines that men do for the waist to hip ratio. Again, simply divide the smallest waist measurement by the largest hip circumference. For women, a ratio below .80 puts you at a low health risk. A ratio between .81 to .85 is a moderate risk and anything above .85 means you are at a high risk for health complication.
Although it is never satisfying to carry an excess amount of fat in your body, it is important to know that if you have the body type that carries more fat in your hips, thighs and butt, it is better than carrying a large amount on your stomach. No studies have been definitely able to say why this is the case. Many researches think it could be due to the fact that vital organs are stored in the abdominal region and by storing excess fat around these organs it puts more strain and stress on the organs, which can eventually lead to problems. However, if you do mainly store fat in your hip region, this does not mean you are in the clear. This still means we are most likely storing too much fat on the body. Which is usually indicative of unhealthy nutrition habits or ineffective/non-existent workouts.
I am not advocating for throwing out the BMI charts just yet, but these ratios can be another tool to utilize to give you a better understanding of your current health status. There are many factors that go into a person’s current and future health risks, its important to utilize a variety of healthy indicators.
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