How to assess Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR)

Updated: Aug 28, 2021

This is a Body Fat Distribution Assessment

Purpose: To assess health risk, based on the distribution of body fat

The pattern of body fat distribution is an important predictor of the health risks of obesity. Individuals with excess fat deposited on the trunk/abdomen are at increased risk for hypertension, type 2 diabetes, CAD, & premature death, compared to those who are equally fat, but have more on the extremities. This is why this simple measurement is very important.


– Ensure that measures are taken perpendicular to the long axis.

– Apply proper tension (no slack & no compression of skin)

– Take duplicate measures (circuit fashion) & retest if duplicates not within 5 mm or 0.5 cm

– Use mean (average) of duplicate measures that are within 5 mm

– Divide waist measure by hip measure to determine WHR

Waist = narrowest portion of the torso (above the umbilicus, below the xiphoid process.)

Hip = maximal circumference of the hip & buttocks region

– Feet together!

– Measure from side!

If you look at the shapes of how people hold fat, the pear shape (gynoid) is more optimal than the apple shape (android).

Try and picture the apple as the mid section of someone who is overweight. They carry their fat there and might have more slender arms and legs. Now look at the pear and picture the wider part as the glutes/hip area. This depicts a narrower waist than hips, which is a much more healthy distribution for body fat.

Diet, exercise, and stress can all play a role in which distribution you will have.


Haff, G. G., & Dumke, C. (2018). Laboratory Manual for Exercise Physiology, 2E: Human Kinetics.

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