Hip-to-waist ratio and cardiovascular disease
While a fitness professional may use several different tools to judge whether a client is a healthy weight, one of the easiest and most effective is the hip-to-waist ratio, the subject of this blog.
Personal trainers who have trained for a Level 3 Certificate in Personal Training, will have studied this subject and will be able to recommend the ideal hip-to-waist ratio for a client and help them to measure it.
Working out a client’s hip-to-waist ratio
The first step is for the personal trainer to measure the client’s hips and make a note of the figure.
Then they should find and measure the client’s waist, which is located half way between the top of the hip bone and the lowest rib – usually level with the tummy button.
Ideally the waist measurement should be no more than 80cm (32”) in women and 94cm (37”) in men. Anything over 88cm (35”) in women and 102cm (40”) in men is considered very high.
They should then divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement:
e.g. 76cm (30”) waist ÷ 94cm (37”) hips = a ratio of 0.81
A ratio over 1.0 in men or 0.85 in women shows that the client is carrying excess weight.
As we discussed in our blog on Somatotypes: What are they?, people do come in different shapes and sizes. Those with excess weight around the waist and slim hips are usually considered apple-shaped and should be particularly careful about managing their weight, as they are more likely to have excess fat around organs such as the heart and liver and be more likely to develop heart disease and Type 2 diabetes (see our blog on Personal Training: Diabetes).
Waist circumference and cardio-vascular disease
As complex machinery can be expensive and impractical, waist circumference can offer a more realistic measurement technique and can be easily used by professionals such as personal trainers and fitness instructors.
A recent article in the Health and Fitness Journal of The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) looked at this subject.
‘Measuring Waist Circumference to Determine Cardiometabolic Risk’ by Corinna Serviente and Gary A Sforzo (Vol 17 no 6) pointed out that many professionals agree that waist circumference “should be used to screen for cardiometabolic disease risk”.
However, it also stated that there was “no consensus on the most appropriate measurement technique” and that there is always room for error.
The article points out that there is some debate as to which part of the waist should be measured, ie. below the lowest rib, level with the tummy button, or superior to the iliac crest. Several studies have found that measurements taken at all three sites are generally a good way of establishing visceral adipose tissue (VAT) – which is a good indicator of cardiometabolic disease risk.
However, it also says that new research has suggested that “measuring WC [waist circumference] below the lowest rib may be best for identifying cardiometabolic disease risk based on VAT deposition patterns”.
The article concludes by saying: “Hopefully, standardized protocols for WC measurement and appropriate cut points will be adopted by major organisations and be available for our clinical use in the near future.”
The key is for the personal trainer or fitness professional to ensure they measure the same area each time for the most reliable results, as the measurements can vary significantly between the different sites.
Other considerations can include the age and ethnicity of a client, as these can be a factor in the amount of VAT present.
Finally, measuring a client’s hip-to-waist ratio on a regular basis can be a good way for a personal trainer to monitor the success or otherwise of a training regime and to provide the client with the motivation to continue with their training.