How to Take Accurate Girth Measurements

Flickr quinn.anya  300x200 How to Take Accurate Girth Measurements

flickr Photo Credit: quinn.anya

Girth measurements are measures of circumference (distance around the outside of a curved or circular object) taken at specific anatomical sites of the body, using a tape measure.  These measurements can be used on their own to identify changes in the size of a particular part of the body or as part of specific mathematical equations used in health and fitness.  Calculations that use girth measurements, primarily to identify obesity-related health risk, include:

  • Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR)
  • Body Composition (i.e. body fat percentage)

Taking Accurate Girth Measurements

Although the procedure for taking girth measurements is fairly easy, consistency of the measurement from one session to the next is often times a concern.  In order to alleviate this problem, protocols for accurate girth measurements is outlined below.

Getting Started
  • The individual should wear minimal clothing (or clothing that is tight fitting to the body).
  • Unless specified, all measurements are taken on the right side of the body (the exception being the chest, waist and gluteal).
  • The start of the measuring tape (i.e. the stub end) is held in the left hand when taking the final measure of all girths.
  • When measuring, the tape is pulled out of its housing and around the body part by the left hand, the stub end is then transferred to the right hand (momentarily) and then ends up in the left hand for the final measurement.
  • Landmarks are marked for each measurement (using a pen).
  • The tape is passed around the body part with the landmark above the tape line.
  • The girths are measured with the tape perpendicular (90 degrees) to the length of the bone or body segment.
  • The goal is to obtain the measurement of perimeter of the body part with the tape in contact with, but not depressing, the skin.
  • Girth measurements are determined to the closest line marking (i.e. fraction of an inch/cm).
  • Each measurement is taken at least two (2) times for accuracy.
  • Measurements used include:
    • Chest
    • Waist
    • Buttocks
    • Thigh
    • Calf
    • Bicep
    • Forearm
    • Wrist
Girth Measurements – Torso
GirthMeasurements Front900x1200 e1356064870234 How to Take Accurate Girth Measurements

Girth Measurement Landmarks (Front)
Designed by: Amalgamated Designs

Chest

  1. This measure is taken at level to the middle of the sternum (breast bone), with the tape passing under the arms. After the tape is in position, the arms should be relaxed by the side.
  2. The measurement is taken after the individual completes a normal exhalation.
  3. When recording, make sure the tape is lying flat on the skin, and is horizontal and perpendicular to the spine (especially around the back).

Waist

  1. The waist measurement is taken at the narrowest waist level, or if this is not apparent, at the mid point between the lowest rib and the top of the hip bone (illiac crest).  If you are unsure if this measurement was taken at the narrowest level, take several measurements at different levels and take the lowest measurement.
  2. The measurement is taken after the individual completes a normal exhalation.
  3. When recording, make sure the tape is lying flat on the skin and is horizontal and perpendicular to the spine.
Girth Measurements – Lower Body

Gluteal

  1. The gluteal girth measurement is taken at the level of the where the gluteal (buttock) muscles protrude the most.  This is where the circumference will be at its greatest.
  2. The subject stands erect with their weight evenly distributed between both feet (which are slightly parted) making sure not to tense the gluteal muscles.
  3. When recording, make sure the tape is lying flat and is horizontal and perpendicular to the spine (to make the measurement easier to obtain have the subject stand on a box).
GirthMeasurements Side600X1200 e1414099364550 How to Take Accurate Girth Measurements

Girth Measurement Landmarks (Side)
Designed by: Amalgamated Designs

Thigh (middle)

  1. First mark the site to be measured.
  2. The subject stands erect with their weight evenly distributed between both feet (slightly parted).  The circumference measure is taken at the level of the mid-point on the lateral (outer side) surface of the thigh, midway between trochanterion (top of the thigh bone, femur) and tibiale laterale (top of the tibia bone).
  3. When recording, make sure the tape is lying flat on the skin, with the tape perpendicular to the femur.

Calf

  1. The subject stands erect with their weight evenly distributed between both feet (slightly parted).
  2. The measurement is taken at the level of the largest circumference of the calf.  The maximal girth is not always obvious (the tape may need to be moved up and down to find the point of maximum circumference).
  3. When recording, make sure the tape is lying flat on the skin, with the tape perpendicular to the tibia (to make the measurement easier to obtain have the subject stand on a box).
Girth Measurements – Arms

Arm (relaxed)

  1. First mark the site to be measured.
  2. The measurement is taken at the mid-point between the acromial (boney point of shoulder) and the olecranon (boney point of elbow) process.
  3. When recording, make sure the tape is lying flat on the skin, with the tape perpendicular to the bone of the upper arm.

Forearm

  1. The subject holds the arm out with the palm facing upwards.  The measurement is taken along the forearm at the point of the largest circumference.  The maximal girth is not always obvious.  The tape may need to be moved up and down to find the point of maximum circumference, which will usually be found closer to the elbow.
  2. When recording, make sure the tape is lying flat on the skin, with the tape perpendicular to the bones of the forearm.

Wrist

  1. This girth measurement is usually taken at a point just distal (away from the body) to the styloid processes.  This is usually the minimum circumference in this region (the tape may need to be moved up and down to find the minimum circumference).
  2. When recording, make sure the tape is lying flat on the skin, with the tape perpendicular to the bones of the forearm.

Comments

  1. […] information on proper technique and procedures for taking girth measurements, click here.  Equations derived from “Nutrition, Weight Control, and Exercise”, F. Katch & W.D. […]