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Measure your waist circumference just above the hipbones.
When it comes to evaluating your health and body composition, there are several options available. The most common evaluation tool is the body mass index chart, or BMI, which uses your height and weight to assess your health. Despite its common use, the BMI has its limitations, making arm, leg, hip and waist measurements very useful. These measurements will allow for another -- and likely more accurate -- evaluation of your health in terms of your body composition.
Body mass index can give you an idea of your health relative to your height and weight, and it is simple to calculate. Find a chart or an Online calculator and plug your height and weight in to get your results. A resultant reading of 18.5 or below is considered underweight, 18.6 to 25.9 is normal, 26.0 to 29.9 is overweight, and 30.0 and above is considered obese. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the higher the BMI reading, the higher your risk for health problems like hypertension, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
The relative simplicity of BMI is what makes it so useful, but is also what holds it back. The measurement does not take body fat measurements into account, so the results can be skewed for certain users. Because muscle is significantly more dense than fat, an athlete with significant muscle mass and low body fat percentage will have a high BMI reading despite their good health. For instance, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings is listed at 6-foot 1 inch -- 73 inches -- and 217 pounds as of the 2014 off-season. That leaves him with a BMI of 28.6, significantly in the overweight category.
A more reliable way to measure your health in terms of body fat, notes the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, is your waist-to-hip ratio. This method requires you to actually measure the circumference of your hips, which will give you a better indication of body fat levels and storage. The higher the percentage of fat stored in your waist rather than your hips, the higher your chances of developing heart disease or type 2 diabetes. Your risk factor increases with measurements of 35 inches or greater in women, and 40 or greater in men. According to NHLBI, properly measure your waist by placing a measuring tape just above your hip bones, and measure just before exhaling.
Legs and Arms
A study in the October 2010 "The Journals of Gerontology, Series A" revealed that a close correlation exists between arm and leg measurements and BMI readings. This was found to be especially helpful for the elderly, as spinal conditions can affect height measurements and skew BMI results. The upper arm should be measured between the shoulder and elbow with your arms at your side, while your legs should be measured at the largest point of the thigh.