Why is my waist size important?

Your risk of some health problems is affected by where your body fat is stored, as well as by your weight. Carrying too much fat around your middle (waist) can increase your risk of developing conditions such as:

Not sure if you're overweight?

You can check by:

  • measuring your waist regularly
  • checking your BMI (body mass index) to see if your weight is healthy for your height

Measuring your waist

To measure your waist:

  • find the bottom of your ribs and the top of your hips
  • breathe out naturally
  • wrap a tape measure around your waist midway between these points to find your measurement

What is your body shape?

Most people are apple-shaped or pear-shaped. This means that when you put on weight, the fat is either stored around your hips (pear-shaped) or around your middle (apple-shaped).

If you're overweight and apple-shaped, you have a higher risk of health problems than if you're pear-shaped.

Waist size and risk of health problems

You have a higher risk of health problems if your waist size is:

  • more than 94cm (37 inches) if you're a man
  • more than 80cm (31.5 inches) if you're a woman

Your risk of health problems is even higher if your waist size is:

  • more than 102cm (40 inches) if you're a man 
  • more than 88cm (34.5 inches) if you're a woman  

Checking if you're overweight

BMI is a measure that most people can use to check if they're a healthy weight for their height. For more information, see What is the body mass index (BMI)?

Losing weight around the stomach

Most people who are overweight find that their excess weight is due to eating more calories than they burn.

Weight gain occurs when we regularly put more calories (energy) into our bodies than we use. Over time, that excess energy is stored by the body as fat.

If you're trying to lose weight, it's a good idea to eat less and be more active.

Read more information about how to lose weight, including advice on exercise and understanding calories.

Read the answers to common health questions about exercise.

Further information:

Video: lose the belly

Around 1,000 people a week die from obesity-related conditions. Want to get fit and lose the belly? See how other men have done it

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Page last reviewed: 22/09/2014

Next review due: 21/09/2016