Article

A healthy waist is good for your health!

Are you carrying extra weight around your middle? Read on to learn more about your waist and your health.

What’s better - an apple or pear shape?

Being the shape of a pear is better for your health than being an apple shape. Pear-shaped people, usually women, carry more of their extra weight around their hips, thighs and buttocks. People who are apple-shaped typically carry extra weight around their bellies. Being an apple-shape is associated with increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Greater belly fat is also linked to high blood cholesterol, hypertension, gallbladder disease and sleep apnea.

Healthy Waist Guidelines:

In men a waist measurement of 102 cm (40 inches) or greater increases risk of developing health problems. In women, a waist measurement of 88 cm (35 inches) or more increases risk of health problems.

How can you tell if you have a healthy waist?

The best way to tell if your health is at risk is to measure your waist. Waist measurements are easy to do and may be a better predictor of your health risk than the Body Mass Index (BMI). That’s because BMI does not show where any extra weight is carried and does not distinguish between body fat and muscle. Extra girth at your waist is not likely to be muscle. Over time, your BMI may stay the same, but your waist measurement may change, indicating changes in your body composition (e.g. more or less muscle or fat) and the way your body carries body fat. In addition, BMI is not as useful for individuals who are muscular, people who are naturally lean, and adults who are over 65 years of age.

How to measure your waist:

  • You can take your waist measurement yourself or ask someone to help you.
  • Stand up straight. Remove clothing from around your waist.
  • Wrap a tape measure around your waist - half way between your hip bone and lowest rib.
  • Make sure the tape measure is level all around and hold firmly but don’t press into the skin.
  • Take a deep breath, exhale and measure.
  • Compare your results to the healthy waist guidelines.

Are there any exercises you can do to achieve a healthy waist?

There are no specific exercises to “spot” reduce belly fat. Research shows that regular physical activity can help reduce abdominal fat, even without weight loss. You can monitor your progress as you become more active by keeping track of your waist measurement. To achieve a healthy waist, aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate intensity activity each day. Try brisk walking, cycling, dancing and other weight bearing activities. You can also try adding some weights to your exercise regimen twice a week. The easiest way to become more active is to work it into your regular routine. Walking more each day in usual activities instead of taking the car is a great way to start.

There are many great ways to keep active. You can get more ideas from Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living.

Is there a special diet to help you lose belly fat?

To achieve a healthy waist you need to keep active and eat well but there is no special diet. It’s best to follow Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, manage how much you eat, and limit your intake of foods and beverages that are low in nutrients and high in calories, fat, and sugar. 

Resources

Canadian Guidelines for Body Weight Classification in Adults, by Health Canada

Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living

Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide

It’s Your Health – Obesity, from Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada

BMI Calculator, by Health Canada

Last Update – October 9, 2016

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