Is There an Ideal Waist-to-Chest Ratio?

Waist-to-chest ratio is an important number used to gauge health and fitness. Specifically, it is a measure of the proportion of the waist circumference to the chest circumference. This ratio is used in conjunction with waist-to-hip ratio and body mass index to determine overall body shape. While the ideal differs for men and women, staying within the specified range produces optimal health and fitness.

Four muscular men on the beach. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Waist-to-Chest Ratio Defined

Your waist-to-chest ratio is your waist circumference divided by your chest circumference. The answer is given in the form of a decimal number. For example, a person who has a waist of 28 inches and a chest of 34 inches has a waist-to-chest ratio of 0.82. To determine your waist-to-chest ratio, take a tape measure and measure your waist at the smallest point. Then measure your chest right below your arms, running the tape measure through your armpits. Divide the circumference of your waist by the circumference of your chest to get the ratio.

Healthy Ratio

Your waist-to-chest ratio is much less important for determining your health than your waist-to-hip ratio and BMI, which is a measure of your body fat based on height and weight. The goal is to ensure that your waist is less than 35 inches if you are a women and 40 inches if you are a man and that your BMI is between 18.5 and 25. The waist-to-chest ratio, in conjunction with the waist-to-hip ratio, is a helpful factor in determining shape. If the waist-to-chest ratio is smaller than the waist-to-hip ratio, the body carries most of its weight up top. This tends to lead to more health problems than a body that carries most of its weight on the bottom. If your waist is bigger than your chest or hips, this could also negatively impact your health.

Ideal Ratio

The aesthetically ideal ratio, while differing from person to person, has a common thread throughout history. For women, the ideal is generally the hourglass shape, where the waist is thin and the waist-to-hip ratio and the waist-to-chest ratio are equal. For men, the ideal generally is to have a lower waist-to-chest ratio than waist-to-hip ratio. This means that the chest is larger than the hips and waist.

Changing the Ratio

With effort, you can change your body shape by performing a variety of exercises. If weight loss is your main concern -- if your waist is bigger than your hips or chest -- you can reduce your caloric intake and do a mixture of cardio and strength training to help whittle down your waistline and lose body fat. To change the distribution of your body weight, do exercises that work the larger muscles in the area you wish to gain weight -- your upper or lower body -- and do exercises that work the smaller muscles in the area where you want to lose the weight.

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