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Our waist size tells a story

Published:Wednesday | March 17, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Waist size can say that we are attractive, overweight, obese or in poor health. There is a positive relationship between excess fat around the waist and the development of cardiovascular problems.

The size of the waist is indicative of how some of us store fat and this fat storage can increase the risk for the development of lifestyle diseases. Those of us with excess abdominal fat are at higher risk than people who store fat in their hips and thighs for heart disease, hypertension, type two diabetes and stroke.

Waist-to-hip ratio

Due to the higher risk for disease in individuals with a tendency to store fat in their abdo-minal area, a waist-to-hip ratio is used to estimate health-risk factors. The measurement of the waist should be taken at the point of smallest circumference between the rib cage and the hip bone. The hip measurement is taken at the point of greatest circumference.

A waist measurement cut-off point of about 35 inches for women and 40 inches in men, irrespective of their weight, is used as a guide. The waist measurement is then divided by the hip measurement. A result hat is less than one is desirable.

What's your number?

Health risk increases when the waist-to-hip ratio exceeds 0.95 in men and 0.8 in women. Measurements beyond these numbers are unhealthy and indicative of excess fat surrounding our internal organs and of increased health risk and should trigger efforts to lose the excess weight.

Many of us perform abdominal exercises hoping to burn fat, reduce our waistline and develop well-defined abdominal muscles.

Some of us have well-developed abdominal muscles as well as a high level of fat and so our abdominal muscles are not easily seen. However, a reduction in our weight, by losing fat, is the best way to control our waistline and expose the muscles under the fat. The muscles in the abdomen become more visible in most men whose body fat is at the 10 per cent mark and in women at the 14 per cent mark.

A six-pack profile

The key to profiling our six-pack is to lowering our body fat overall. This can be done quite successfully by burning more calories than we consume. We can burn calories through cardiovascular exercises such as jogging, running and cycling. Having reduced our weight and the fat around the abdomen, abdominal exercises can then be performed to improve the profile and tone the muscles to develop a more desirable waistline.

The following exercises will do our abdominal muscles a world of good - basic crunch, reverse crunch, side bends with weights, oblique crunch, cross-over crunch, bicycle manoeuvre and exercise ball crunch.

Dr Kenneth Gardner is an exercise physiologist at Holiday Hills Research Center; email: