What Waist Circumference Can Tell You About Your Health (2022)

Waist circumference is the measurement taken around the abdomen at the level of the umbilicus (belly button). Health experts commonly use waist measurement to screen patients for possible weight-related health problems. While a helpful tool, waist size is just one indicator that may point to certain health conditions, and it is not used to singularly diagnose any conditions or diseases.

While health experts and physicians may use this method in-office, you can also measure your own waist circumference at home.

What Waist Circumference Tells Us

Measuring the size of your waist can help you understand your risk for certain weight-related health conditions. Waist circumference alone cannot indicate that you have a medical condition or that you'll develop one in the future, but it can help you and your healthcare provider to determine where fat is located on your body and if that body fat may cause health problems for you in the future.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), if more fat is located around your waist rather than around your hips, you are at higher risk for conditions including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. You can use your waist measurement to calculate your waist-hip ratio (WHR), which provides another screening tool for weight-related disease risk.

Your healthcare provider may also use a body mass index (BMI) measurement as a health indicator. However, a 2019 study concluded that both hip-adjusted waist circumference and waist-to-height ratio were stronger indicators of health and potential health conditions than BMI.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a dated, biased measure that doesn’t account for several factors, such as body composition, ethnicity, race, gender, and age.

Despite being a flawed measure, BMI is widely used today in the medical community because it is an inexpensive and quick method for analyzing potential health status and outcomes.

How to Measure Your Waist

To measure waist circumference correctly, you should use a flexible tape measure that is not elastic (i.e., the tape measure should not stretch when you are taking the measurement). You should also remove any bulky clothing that can add padding around your abdomen.

Follow these steps to measure your waist:

  1. Stand up to get an accurate waist measurement.
  2. Wrap the tape measure around the widest part of your stomach, across your belly button. The tape measure should rest gently on your skin.
  3. Once the tape measure is positioned correctly, breathe in gently and then take the measurement on the exhale.

Take the measurement three times to make sure you get a consistent result. Holding the tape too tight so that it digs into your flesh or holding it too loosely so that it droops will cause you to get an incorrect result.

How to Properly Take Body Measurements

(Video) How to measure your waist circumference

Check Your Health Risk

To find out how your waist circumference measures up, use this chart to see if your waist measurement indicates that you are at an increased risk for disease. Individual circumstances may vary, so seek the advice of a doctor to determine next steps.

If your waist measurement is greater than the numbers indicated below, your risk for weight-related health problems may be increased. For Asians, the waist circumference recommendation may need to be lower. A 2019 study done on 209 chinese men and 318 chinese women found that increased insulin resistance is observed when waist circumferences are greater than 29 inches for women and 32.5 inches for men.

Higher Risk Waist Circumference Measurements
SexWaist Measurement
Men> 40 inches (102 centimeters)
Women> 35 inches (89 centimeters)

How to Reduce Your Waist Measurement

If your waist circumference is in the high-risk range according to the table above,working with your doctor and a registered dietitian tolose body fatandreduce the fat in your midsectioncan improve your health and well-being. To get started, consider the following daily habits.

Diet

The first step to reducing your waist measurement for your overall health is to evaluate your eating habits. To get started, try observing your portion sizes and comparing your portions to the recommended serving size. If you're not sure how much to eat, use a calorie calculator to estimate your body's daily caloric needs. Then count calories to make sure you're getting the right amount to fuel your body and lose weight safely.

Additionally, consider increasing the nutrient density of your diet by incorporating more nutrient-packed foods into your meal planning, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, lean proteins, and other unprocessed foods.

Nearly a quarter of all Americans skip breakfast. Although more research is needed to solidify the importance of breakfast, a 2019 meta-analysis including eight studies and about 284,000 participants suggests that skipping breakfast increases the risk for heart disease. Skipping breakfast may also increase the risk for diabetes, becoming overweight, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance.

Eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages—soda, especially—can also cut down your sugar and calorie intake. Quitting a sugared beverage habit can offer multiple benefits, including improved sleep, increased energy, and notably, weight loss. This weight loss can then lead to a reduction in your waist measurement and disease risk.

Exercise

Once you've implemented a sustainable healthy eating plan, try increasing your activity level to burn more calories throughout the day and support a strong, healthy body. Again, use a calorie estimator to find out how many calories you currently burn each day, then add small habit changes to burn a few more. For example, you can take the stairs instead of the elevator at work or go for a walk every evening after dinner. Every step counts in your path to healthier living. The CDC recommends that you get 150 minutes of moderate-intense aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity with at least 2 days of the week doing muscle-strengthening training.

7 Exercise Tips That Make Weight Loss Easier

Lifestyle Changes

Alongside diet and exercise, some lifestyle changes can help in reducing waist circumference and improving overall health. If you consistently get too little sleep or poor sleep, it can be even more difficult to find the motivation to make healthier choices. Improving your sleep and reducing fatigue can have a direct impact on your weight loss. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults receive 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

Stress, like sleep, is also intricately linked to health. Research has shown that high stress can often lead to overeating, and the foods we choose while stressed tend to be high in calories and low in nutrients.

Finally, reducing alcohol consumption can also slash your calorie intake and help support weight loss. Eliminating or cutting down on these empty calories can aid in reducing your waist circumference measurement.

(Video) What Can Your Waist Circumference Tell You About Your Health Status?

A Word From Verywell

There are many different ways to evaluate your health and your risk for disease—waist circumference is just one of them. If you find that yours is higher than you'd like it to be, talk to your healthcare provider about your personal health risks and get suggestions for the best ways to improve your overall health.

Often, it's small, incremental changes to your lifestyle that ultimately make the biggest difference in your health and pave the path toward sustainable weight loss, so it's important to begin the conversation.

Beat Metabolic Syndrome With These Exercises

7 Sources

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Assessing Your Weight and Health Risk.

    (Video) Waist Size Better Indicator of Heart Disease Risk | This Morning

  2. Nalini M, Sharafkhah M, Poustchi H, et al. Comparing anthropometric indicators of visceral and general adiposity as determinants of overall and cardiovascular mortality.Arch Iran Med. 2019;22(6):301-309.

  3. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Assessing Your Weight.

  4. Ponnalagu SD, Bi X, Henry CJ. Is waist circumference more strongly associated with metabolic risk factors than waist-to-height ratio in Asians? Nutrition. 2019;60:30-34 doi:10.1016/j.nut.2018.09.005

  5. Samuel L Buckner, Paul D Loprinzi, Jeremy P Loenneke, Why don’t more people eat breakfast? A biological perspective,The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 103, Issue 6, June 2016, Pages 1555–1556,doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.132837

  6. Takagi H, Hari Y, Nakashima K, Kuno T, Ando T. Meta-analysis of relation of skipping breakfast with heart disease.The American Journal of Cardiology. 2019;124(6):978-986. doi:10.1016/j.amjcard.2019.06.016

  7. How much physical activity do adults need? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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(Video) What is a Healthy Waist Measurement? Doctor Dennis Kerrigan Explains

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FAQs

Is waist circumference a good indicator of health? ›

Conclusions. We conclude that a waist circumference above 94 cm was found to be most predictive in identifying middle-aged men having a high risk to develop type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease. It should therefore be used more in every day practice to identify individuals at risk.

How does your waist circumference determine your health condition? ›

Measuring waist circumference can help to assess obesity-related health risk. Even at a healthy weight, excess fat carried around the waist can increase your risk of high blood pressure, high [blood] cholesterol, heart disease and type-2 diabetes.

What is a healthy waist size for my height? ›

Ideally, your waist measurement should be less than half of your height. (So if you're 5 foot 6, or 66 inches, your waist circumference should be less than 33 inches.)

What is a healthy belly measurement? ›

To do it, breath normally and wrap the tape around the part of your stomach that's roughly two inches above your hips. The resulting number is your waist circumference. In general if you're a woman, you want a measurement that's less than 34.5 inches. If you're a man, a number below 40 inches is ideal.

Is a 28 inch waist fat? ›

No, a 28 inch waist isn't big for an adult man or woman. In fact, the opposite is true; a 28 inch stomach is small for both men and women. Having a 28 inch waistline is only bad if it's indicative of other health problems such as you being underweight.

Is a 27 inch waist fat? ›

Yes, a 27 inch waist is small for females and is an indicator that your body is in good health (anything over 37 inches puts your health at great risk). Many women greatly desire a sculpted 27″ waist, so if you have one, then you're definitely in the minority.

What waist size is considered skinny? ›

You are healthy! Ashwell has proposed that governments adopt a simple public health message: “Keep your waist to less than half your height.” That means someone who is 5 foot 5 (65 inches; 167.64 centimeters) should maintain a waistline smaller than 33 inches or 84 centimeters.

Is a 29 inch waist fat? ›

One thing's for sure; A 29 inch waist is definitely not fat. Indeed, in the majority of cases, a 29 inch waistline is small and slim. The only exception to this is if 29 inches when doubled exceeds your height in inches (pretty unlikely for most people).

What is an average waist size for a woman? ›

The bottom line

The average American woman's waist size is 38.7 inches. Also, the average American woman is 63.6 inches tall and weigh 170 pounds. All of these numbers are indicators of health, but not predictors.

Does waist size determine body fat? ›

Waist circumference measurement is an easy way to assess body fat levels in your midsection. However, it can't tell you your overall body fat percentage.

Is a 26 inch waist skinny? ›

What does a 26 inch waist look like? On both men and women, a 26 inch waist looks slim and narrow and is usually an indication that you have a naturally slim waist or that you exercise regularly and eat healthily. For a woman, in particular, a 26″ waist will look even smaller the wider that your hips are.

What is the perfect size for a woman? ›

your ideal measurements should be: Bust, 34 inches to 35 inches: waist, 24 inches to 25 inches; hips, 34 inches to 35 inches. If you're a tall woman of over 5 feet 6 inches, you must stack up to these measurements for perfection: Bust, 35 inches to 37 inches; waist, 25 inches to 27 inches; hips, 35 inches to 37 inches.

What is a healthy waist size for a 5 3 woman? ›

Based on American anthropometric data, a normal waist circumference for a 5′3″ woman is between 36 and 40 inches.

Is waist circumference better than BMI? ›

In healthy men waist circumference correlated more strongly with physical fitness (as calculated by a maximal fitness test) than the BMI, whereas in healthy women BMI correlated somewhat more strongly with physical fitness than waist circumference.

What is a good waist size for 5 4? ›

Thus a man who is 6ft or 72 inches tall (183 cm), should keep his waist under 36 inches (91 cm), and a woman who is 5ft 4 in or 64 inches tall (163 cm), should keep her waist measurement under 32 inches (81 cm). Ashwell said the measure should be considered as a screening tool.

How long does it take to lose an inch off your waist? ›

How quickly will you lose weight? The volunteers reduced their waist sizes by an average of 1 inch for every 4lb (1.81kg) they lost. So if you lose 1lb (0.45kg) a week you could hope to reduce your waistline by an inch after four weeks.

How many pounds is a waist size? ›

Multiple regression tells us that on average, for every 8.5 pounds lost, people dropped an inch off their waist. (And for every 1.5 kilograms lost, people dropped a centimeter off their waist.) Every 10 pounds lost was accompanied by 1.18 inches of waistline reduction.

Why do women's waists thicken with age? ›

Many women also notice an increase in belly fat as they get older — even if they aren't gaining weight. This is likely due to a decreasing level of estrogen, which appears to influence where fat is distributed in the body.

What is the perfect body measurements? ›

The specific proportions of 36–24–36 inches (90-60-90 centimeters) have frequently been given as the "ideal", or "hourglass" proportions for women since at least the 1960s (these measurements are, for example, the title of a hit instrumental by The Shadows).

Is 30 inches a small waist? ›

Most clothing brands classify a 30″ waist as a size small, so you definitely have a slim stomach if your waistline is 30 inches.

What waist size is obese for a woman? ›

If most of your fat is around your waist rather than at your hips, you're at a higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. This risk goes up with a waist size that is greater than 35 inches for women or greater than 40 inches for men.

Is a 24 inch waist healthy? ›

Although it's tiny in most people's eyes, a 24 inch waist is actually fairly common for models and female athletes because these women have very low body fat levels. According to the data, 24 inches is a normal waist size for 7 and 8-year-olds.

Is size 12 jeans fat? ›

SIZE 12 IS NOT FAT!

Is a 32 inch waist small? ›

A 32 inch waist is far below the average waist size for Americans. And that's for both males and females. But it's not just your gender and country of residence that affects your optimal waist size.

How can I reduce my waist size from 28 to 36? ›

Here are some ideas.
  1. Keep a food journal where you track your calories.
  2. Drink more water.
  3. Exercise at least 30 minutes, three times a week. More if possible.
  4. Eat more protein and fiber.
  5. Reduce your added sugar intake.
  6. Get more sleep.
  7. Reduce your stress.
18 Jul 2019

Is 32 inches a big waist? ›

A woman's health is at risk if her waist circumference is 32 inches or more. A measurement of 35 or more puts you at high risk for a heart attack or stroke. People with a high level of abdominal fat have a much higher chance of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Why does exercise make my waist bigger? ›

Newly strengthened muscles retain water, and for good reason. Weight training exposes muscles to stress to strengthen them, and the resulting soreness causes the surrounding tissues to swell until things calm down.

Does waist size increase with age? ›

In both men and women, waist and waist-to- hip ratio increase with aging. A large portion of this increase is driven by gains in body weight, but the increases observed are larger than those would be predicted from increases in BMI alone, and increases in WC are seen with aging in the absence of weight gain.

Who has the smallest natural waist? ›

Cathie Jung (born 1937) is an American Victorian dress and corset enthusiast residing in Manteo, NC, United States. She holds the Guinness World Record for the smallest waist on a living person. Jung, who is 1.72 metres (5.6 ft) tall, has a waist that measures 38.1 centimetres (15.0 in).

Is a 20 inch waist healthy? ›

A 20 inch waist is well below the average waist size for women. In fact, 20 inches is a normal waist size for a 3 to 4-year-old child. So when you look at the facts, it appears that sculpting a 20″ waist is close to impossible for an adult woman. But that doesn't mean that some women haven't tried and succeeded.

Is a 33 inch waist small? ›

Based on American anthropometric data, a 33 inch waist is smaller than average for a man by nearly 8 inches. Some people may consider a 33 inch waistline to be a medium size, while others would say that it's definitely small.

What is the ideal waist to hip ratio? ›

Women should have a waist to hip ratio under 1.0 - a . 90 or lower. That's according to this study - which was done in older people. But the idea here is that intra-abdominal fat is bad for your health.

What jean size is a 26 inch waist? ›

The average woman wears a jeans size of 34×30.
Jean Size Women (W)US Misses SizeWaist (Inches)
24024.5” - 25.5”
25/26225.5” - 27.5”
27427.5” - 28.5”
28628.5” - 29.5”
11 more rows

Is a 25 inch waist big? ›

Yes, considering that the majority of women have waistlines that are at least 10 inches bigger than our example, a 25 inch waist is extremely small and slim indeed. You might have a 25 in waist if you exercise frequently.

What is a small hip size? ›

The slim hip type is for women whose hip measurement is either 3.5 cm (1.4 inches) smaller or up to 1 cm (0.4 inches) larger than her bust measurement. The average hip type is for a woman whose hip measurement is 2.5 cm (1 inch) to 8 cm (3.1 inches) larger than her bust measurement.

What BMI is most attractive? ›

A LINK between less body weight and attractiveness is due to an evolutionary preference for youth, according to research by University of Aberdeen academics. Scientists have tested a theory that women with a body mass index (BMI) of 24 to 25 would be deemed most attractive based on a mathematical model.

What is the most attractive body shape of a female? ›

Top hourglass body shape

Considered to be the most attractive body shape, this is very similar to hourglass body shape, except that in this case the curves are more defined.

What are the most attractive measurements for a woman? ›

According to a University of Texas at Austin study, men are most attracted to women who have a waist that is approximately 30 percent narrower than their hips, or a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7. This isn't a current fad, either; it's a built-in biological preference, the research found.

Why is waist circumference an important indicator? ›

Waist circumference is a good measure of fat around your middle. This type of fat builds up around your organs, and is linked to high blood fat levels, high blood pressure and diabetes. A larger waist usually also means there is excess fat inside your organs.

Why do doctors measure waist circumference? ›

Waist circumference alone cannot indicate that you have a medical condition or that you'll develop one in the future, but it can help you and your healthcare provider to determine where fat is located on your body and if that body fat may cause health problems for you in the future.

What waist size is considered skinny? ›

You are healthy! Ashwell has proposed that governments adopt a simple public health message: “Keep your waist to less than half your height.” That means someone who is 5 foot 5 (65 inches; 167.64 centimeters) should maintain a waistline smaller than 33 inches or 84 centimeters.

How do you know if your a healthy weight? ›

Adult Body Mass Index or BMI
  1. If your BMI is less than 18.5, it falls within the underweight range.
  2. If your BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, it falls within the normal or Healthy Weight range.
  3. If your BMI is 25.0 to 29.9, it falls within the overweight range.
  4. If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the obese range.

What waist size puts you at risk for diabetes? ›

Having a waist size of 31.5 inches or over for women; 35 inches or over for Asian men and 37 inches or over for white and black men, increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes significantly.

What is an average waist size for a woman? ›

The bottom line

The average American woman's waist size is 38.7 inches. Also, the average American woman is 63.6 inches tall and weigh 170 pounds. All of these numbers are indicators of health, but not predictors.

What is a healthy waist size for a 5 3 woman? ›

Based on American anthropometric data, a normal waist circumference for a 5′3″ woman is between 36 and 40 inches.

What is a healthy hip circumference? ›

Results: Age standardized mean waist circumference range between populations from 83-98 cm in men and from 78-91cm in women. Mean hip circumference ranged from 94-105cm and from 97-108cm in men and women, respectively, and mean WHR from 0.87-0.99 and from 0.76-0.84, respectively.

Is waist circumference better than BMI? ›

In healthy men waist circumference correlated more strongly with physical fitness (as calculated by a maximal fitness test) than the BMI, whereas in healthy women BMI correlated somewhat more strongly with physical fitness than waist circumference.

What waist circumference is obese? ›

Classification of Overweight and Obesity by BMI, Waist Circumference, and Associated Disease Risks
Disease Risk* Relative to Normal Weight and Waist Circumference
Normal18.5–24.9-
Overweight25.0–29.9Increased
Obesity30.0–34.9High
35.0–39.9Very High
3 more rows

Is a 24 inch waist healthy? ›

Although it's tiny in most people's eyes, a 24 inch waist is actually fairly common for models and female athletes because these women have very low body fat levels. According to the data, 24 inches is a normal waist size for 7 and 8-year-olds.

Is a 26 inch waist skinny? ›

What does a 26 inch waist look like? On both men and women, a 26 inch waist looks slim and narrow and is usually an indication that you have a naturally slim waist or that you exercise regularly and eat healthily. For a woman, in particular, a 26″ waist will look even smaller the wider that your hips are.

Is size 12 jeans fat? ›

SIZE 12 IS NOT FAT!

What are signs of poor health? ›

Be mindful of some of the less than obvious signs that you may not be as healthy as you think you are.
  • You snore. ...
  • Your skin isn't clear. ...
  • The whites of your eyes aren't white. ...
  • Your toenails and fingernails are an odd color or texture. ...
  • You're gassy. ...
  • You're always tired. ...
  • Your urine isn't a "pale, straw color."
18 May 2018

How much should a 5'5 female weigh? ›

Height and Weight Chart
HeightWeight
5' 5"114 to 149 lbs.150 to 179 lbs.
5' 6"118 to 154 lbs.155 to 185 lbs.
5' 7"121 to 158 lbs.159 to 190 lbs.
5' 8"125 to 163 lbs.164 to 196 lbs.
17 more rows

What is a good BMI for my age? ›

For most adults, an ideal BMI is in the 18.5 to 24.9 range. For children and young people aged 2 to 18, the BMI calculation takes into account age and gender as well as height and weight. If your BMI is: below 18.5 – you're in the underweight range.

Videos

1. Weight Measures: BMI and Waist Circumference
(National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK))
2. Waist Circumference- Men's Health Pitch
(LaheyHealth)
3. How your waist measurement can affect your health.
(Dr Chinasa Amadi TV)
4. The Tim & Todd Show: Waist Circumference (Ep. 5)
(ACAP Health)
5. YOUNG pts are DYING due to OBESITY - what is your waist circumference? Dr. Pal
(Dr Pal)
6. Waist Circumference - Jarrod Agosta, Dietitian
(South Eastern Active Health)

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