Taking your own body measurements can help you track your fitness results better than relying on the bathroom scale — especially true if you’re trying to lose fat and gain muscle.
Why? Well, the scale only measures your weight — not your body composition. So if you’re losing fat and gaining muscle, you’re going to see a difference in the way you look — but it’s totally possible the scale won’t budge. And if you’re relying solely on the scale to track your results, you may think you’re not making progress.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or make gains, body measurements can show you the bigger picture and give your confidence a boost. “Since you can be losing body fat while building muscle, it’s nice to see the inches come off — or stack on — even when the scale doesn’t signify much change,” says Openfit fitness expert Cody Braun.
And from a health perspective, knowing your measurements can clue you in to health risks — for example, if your waist measures more than 35 inches (for a woman) or 40 inches (for a man), you may be at a higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Here are the ins and outs of taking your own body measurements.
How to Take Your Own Body Measurements
First, decide which areas of your body you plan to measure regularly. Common areas include waist, hips, chest, thighs, and arms.
Find or buy a non-elastic tape measure, which will conform best to your body and provide the most accurate measurements. Measure yourself wearing as little clothing as possible, and pull the measuring tape snug to the body without indenting the skin.
Consistency is key, so try to measure yourself in the same spots each time — ideally on the same day of the week and around the same time of day. If you ask someone else to take your measurements for you, try to get the same person each time in order to replicate the process as closely as possible, Braun says.
So how often should you take your body measurements? Typically, measurements are taken at the end of a workout program phase or at the end of each month — but you can always decide to measure more or less frequently. For example, if you think you could use a little extra accountability, weekly measurements may help you stay on-track with your diet and exercise regimen and gauge how well it’s working, Braun says.
How Are Body Measurements Different for Men and Women?
There are some numerical differences, Braun says: Men are typically widest at the chest, whereas women tend to be widest at the hips. And men tend to store fat in the abdomen, while women store it in the hips and thighs.
But in general, men and women take their body measurements in the same spots. Here’s how to ensure you’re taking consistent measurements each time.
How to Measure Your Waist
Wrap the measuring tape around your waist at your belly button. Make sure the tape is straight all the way around, sits flat on your skin, and is snug without digging in. Don’t suck in your stomach — breathe out normally, and check your measurement after you exhale.
How to Measure Your Hips
To measure your hips, wrap the measuring tape around the widest part of your butt. Again, check that the tape is straight all the way around, lies flat, and fits securely around your hips.
How to Measure Your Chest
Measuring your own chest can be a bit tricky (since you need to have your arms raised slightly while you’re putting the measuring tape in place). Start by wrapping the measuring tape around your chest at the nipple line while your arms are extended. The tape should lie flat against your body, go straight around your chest, and feel snug without digging into your skin. Once the tape is in place, bring your arms back to a relaxed position, make any necessary adjustments, and check your measurement.
How to Measure Your Arms
Keep the arm you’re measuring relaxed by your side, and wrap the measuring tape around the peak of your bicep muscle belly — the thickest part of your upper arm. The tape should lie flat and fit securely around your bicep. (Resist the urge to flex!)
How to Measure Your Thighs
While standing, measure your thigh by wrapping the tape around your leg at the midpoint of the thigh. Make sure the tape lies flat and straight the whole way around. Check your measurement at the point where the two ends overlap.
Looking to lose weight or gain muscle — or both? Openfit is a digital streaming platform for integrated fitness, nutrition, and wellness. It’s the in-your-pocket management tool that shows you how simple it can be to live a healthy, vibrant life — your own way — every day.