These days health checks are not about how much you weigh, but where you keep it. While body mass index (BMI) measurements are still broadly useful, it is only an indicator of the ratio of fat to height. It doesn’t tell you anything about fat distribution. For that, you need something much simpler – a tape measure.


How to measure your waist


  • Stand up straight, relax your stomach and breathe out (no cheating here!).
  • You want to measure the bit just below your ribs and above your hips (around the belly button mark).
  • Keep the tape measure parallel to the floor and don’t pull it too tight.


Why it matters


Most people divide into apples (who store fat round their middle) or pears (who keep fat on their hips and thighs). Storing fat around your abdomen is the worst place to have it in terms of your health and indicates your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes or having a stroke.


Look at the number on your tape measure. If you are a woman and your waist is more than 80 cm, you are at a slightly increased risk of developing these conditions. It it’s more than 88cm, your risk is much higher.


For a man, the magic numbers are 94 cm for a slightly increased risk and 102 cm for a greater risk of avoidable life-threatening illnesses.


What you can do about it


Don’t panic! Anyone over 40 will tell you that waist thickening creeps up on you almost unnoticed. Increase your level of daily aerobic activity (walking, running, cycling) and throw in some exercises to target your midriff, like pilates, yoga and abdominal crunches.


Don’t forget that you are what you eat. And you need to be more fruit and vegetable than cake and crisps. Losing weight is all about burning more calories than you take in (see this blog post for more information).


A few simple adjustments is all you need to live long and stay healthy. We know you can do it and are always interested in hearing your top waist-whittling tips, so don’t forget to share your comments below.