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What is a healthy body weight?

Your heart


What is a healthy body weight?

Find out what a healthy body weight is and the steps you can take to achieve it.

Key takeaways

2 min read

  • Maintaining a healthy body weight can improve your heart health. 

  • Moving more and eating better is key to achieving a healthy weight. 

  • Learn how to measure your waist to tell if you’re a healthy weight. 

  • Developing a healthy weight plan can help you achieve your goals.

Achieving a healthy body weight is one of the best things you can do to improve your heart health and wellbeing. While there’s a lot of information out there about weight and weight loss, this can actually make it harder to know what a healthy weight is and how to achieve it.

Firstly, it can be helpful to learn how to assess your weight by measuring your waist. Then achieve and maintain a healthier weight with the help of our healthy eating and exercise tips. 

Measuring your waist 

Waist measurement is a simple check to tell if you’re carrying excess body fat around your middle.

Your waist measurement is an indicator of the level of internal fat deposits that coat the heart, kidneys, liver, digestive organs and pancreas.

This can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. 

How to measure your waist?

  1. Find the top of your hip bone and the bottom of your ribs.
  2. Breathe out normally.
  3. Place the tape measure midway between these points and wrap it around your waist.
  4. Check your measurement.  

What does my measurement mean? 

Your health is at risk if your waist size is:

Men: Over 94cm (about 37 inches)*

Women: Over 80cm (about 31.5 inches)* 

* These guidelines are based on World Health Organization and National Health and Medical Research Council recommendations.

Who do the measurements apply to?

Waist circumference is less accurate in some situations, including pregnancy, medical conditions where there is distension of the abdomen, and for certain groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, South Asian, Chinese and Japanese adults. Waist measurements should only be used for adults to check their risk of developing a chronic disease. 

What about my Body Mass Index (BMI)?

Body Mass Index, or BMI, gives an indication of your body size.

BMI is calculated using your weight and height. Along with several other factors, like your blood pressure and cholesterol, BMI can help estimate your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

It’s important to remember that BMI is not the most reliable measure of whether your weight is in a healthy range for your height. It’s not a good overall indicator of how healthy you are, and doesn’t take into consideration important factors like age, gender and body composition (fat, muscle and bone).

BMI is also not an accurate measure for certain groups of people, such as women who are pregnant, athletes, and some ethnic groups including Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and people of Asian/South Asian descent.

Learn more about BMI.

Making healthy choices 

A lot has changed over the last few decades, with highly processed ‘convenience foods’  more available than ever. With better access to public transport, as well as food delivery services at our fingertips, we’re less likely to walk or hop on our bikes to get places.

On top of this, jobs have become more sedentary, involving long hours sitting at a desk.

The result is that healthy choices are not always the easiest to make, but The Heart Foundation is here to help with four handy tips.

Losing weight in a healthy way is one of the best things you can do for your long-term health. Don’t be tempted by crash diets that often promise quick results.

If you need to lose weight, plan to do it the healthy way: Consult your doctor, health practitioner, or an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Be realistic about things like your budget, cooking skills, and how much you move.

Finding ways to incorporate changes into your lifestyle long term will help you stay on track.  

Think of getting healthy as the choice to lead a healthier life, as opposed to being “on a diet”.

Nourish your body with fresh (and tasty) foods, reducing or removing highly processed foods.

Take every opportunity to be as active as you can and become the type of person that’s excited to move. 

No single food or nutrient is the key to healthy eating or weight loss. Think about your eating pattern as a whole. Take stock of what you eat over days, weeks, and even months. Small changes have a big impact over time. 

The Heart Healthy Eating Pattern 

The Heart Foundation’s recommendations for eating a heart-healthy diet can help you achieve a healthy weight and reduce your risk of heart disease.  

Our Heart Healthy Eating Pattern includes: 

  • Plenty of vegetables, fruits and wholegrains 

  • A variety of healthy protein sources  

  • Unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese  

  • Healthy fat choices with nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and their oils for cooking 

  • Herbs and spices to flavour foods, instead of adding salt. 

Eating for a healthy weight means limiting how much highly processed food you eat, such as: 

  • Cakes, biscuits, pastries, muffins 

  • Chocolate, lollies, chips 

  • Takeaway foods like pies, burgers and pizza 

  • Sugary drinks like soft drinks, energy drinks and cordials. 

Be mindful of portion sizes for all food you eat. 

Cook at home 

Foods bought outside the home are often high in kilojoules, salt, added sugar, and saturated fat. Cooking at home puts you in control of what goes into your food. 

Stay positive 

Focus on the foods you should eat more of, such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and fish rather than focusing on the foods you need to limit. 

Physical activity is beneficial at any age – it’s never too late. The sooner you get started the sooner you will get results.

If you have a heart condition, we advise you to consult with your doctor before you start exercising.

Being active helps you to live your best life. Over a lifetime, it’s more dangerous to be sedentary rather than active. 

Learn more about the Heart Healthy Eating Pattern.

Here are some ways to get active in everyday life:  

  • Sit less. Try to stand up more often at home, the office, or when you’re out and about. 

  • Move as much as you can – even if it’s broken up throughout the day. 

  • Get off public transport one stop early and walk to your destination. 

  • Take the stairs instead of the lift.  

  • Aim for 30 minutes of activity per day. 

  • Walking as much as possible is a great way to be more active. Find out more about physical activity for a healthy heart.

Learn more about physical activity and your heart.

How to set up a weight loss plan 

If you and your doctor or dietitian agree that you need to lose weight, plan how to do it together. They can help you make realistic decisions about what you can achieve, and the lifestyle changes you can make.

Steps to making a weight loss plan:

  1. Set realistic goals for weight loss or lifestyle.
  2. Start eating more fresh foods and less highly processed ‘junk’ foods.
  3. Step out. Find new ways to increase the number of steps you take.
  4. Get active in ways you enjoy on most days of the week.
  5. Try to sit less and break up long periods of sitting with a short walk.
  6. Stay positive! Weight loss isn’t easy, try to get your family and friends involved so you can motivate each other. 

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for your heart health and wellbeing.

Get the support of a health professional to make a sustainable, long-term weight loss and maintenance plan.

  • National Heart Foundation of Australia. What waist measurments mean for your heart. /your-heart/waist-measurement
  • National Heart Foundation of Australia. Healthy eating to protect your heart. Heart Foundation. Accessed 3 Jan 2023, /healthy-living/healthy-eating
  • National Heart Foundation of Australia. Physical activity and your heart health,. /healthy-living/physical-activity/physical-activity-and-exercise

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Last updated17 February 2020