This actually sounds sensible about lardbuckets and death

The secret to a long life is having a waistline no larger than half your height, scientists claim.

A study by Cass Business School at City University in London, based on two decades of medical research, said a waist to height ratio of 80 per cent or more could reduce life expectancy by up to 20 years.

I don’t say that they’re right, only that it actually sounds sensible whereas we all know the problems with BMI:

Dr Ashwell said the average 30-year-old, 5ft 10in tall man should have a waist of no more than 35in. This would put him in the healthy category.

If his waist expanded to 42in or 60 per cent of his height, he risked losing 1.7 years of life and if it increased to 56in he could die 20.2 years earlier.

An average 30-year-old, 5ft 4in tall woman risked dying 1.4 years earlier if she let her waist swell from half her height, 32in, to 60 per cent of her height, 38.4in.

If her waist increased to 51in, she could die 10.6 years earlier.

A 35 inch waist on a 5,10 tall man isn’t skinny at all (I am taller and smaller than that now and was only just over that 35 inches when I was told to lose a few stone, at perhaps 36 or 37 (never actually measured, but going by waist size of jeans, but of course they stretch etc) and never got to 39 or 40.).

So 42 is definitely porky for a man that height and 56 is simply fatty, fatty, fatty.

It’s not going to be perfect, of course. It’s still not going to be right for some barrel chested hooker or prop but it’s likely to be closer to reality for most of us.

Which leads me to something a little different. An old story about the cuiraisses (spelling? the chest armour they wear) of the Household Cavalry. Made several generations ago they now have terrible trouble finding lads who will actually fit them. They were made for farm boys who had spent a decade or more baling hay by hand etc, lifting cows with one hand to get the milking bucket underneath the teats (I’m not sure I have the exact details of farm life correct here). This generated yeoman lads who could ride, wanted to be soldiers, and who had 55 inch sorta chests.

These days outside a premiership scrum that sort of physique doesn’t really exist. So the much slimmer modern lads wobble around on top of those horses with rags and cloth stuffed into that armour in order to stop it slipping around (well, so I’ve heard, anyway).

My point being that any set of measurements of the modern population will be accurate for said modern population (at least possibly they will be accurate) but won’t be when looking back to populations of the past. Malnutrition meant that most to many in the past were stunted (think that WWI discovery about heights of troopers and officers) but also that hard physical labour led to very different body shapes among those with decent diets.

And finally a personal observation. When I first went to Russia I was amazed at how large everyone’s hands seemed to be. This is going to sound like a very stupid question but humour me. Is hand size something influenced by having to do physical labour when young? Or is it entirely genetic? I don’rt mean particularly finger length, but solidity, width I suppose. Either could be true (assuming that my observation of large Russian hands in the 1990s is anything other than a figment of my imagination). For the average urban Russian was still digging the dacha over the summer to feed the winter at that point, they weren’t that far from still being a nation of peasants in their food supplies (a statistic crossed my desk one day, a survey, saying that 60% of Russians, in 1992 this was, had never bought a potato, provisions coming from household farming). But it’s also true that in 1917-1921, Civil War time, delicate bone structures were taken as evidence of aristocratic background and could and did lead to people being shot.

Anyone actually know?

12 comments on “This actually sounds sensible about lardbuckets and death

  1. I once read a brilliant account of the difficulty of procuring potatoes in post-Soviet Russia, as written by a guy who wanted to make a fast food business out of them. “I was a potato oligarch” I think was the title. Apparently the commercial vegetable trade was run by folk from the Caucasus, so getting involved in it meant saying hi to some nice chaps from the Chechen mafia.

  2. MBE – thanks for that I’ve just ordered it from Amazon. Looks very good.

    Re fatties, there’s a lot going on we still don’t understand. My brother in law is very, er, well-built these days. His gut enters the room half an hour before the rest of him. And yet he is very fit. Runs marathons, knocks of 100 mile cycle rides for fun etc.

  3. I was 6ft 4, before older-age shrinkage. On visiting the SS Great Britain, Brunel’s ship at Bristol, I was able, just, to walk upright below decks. Feeling I was going to hit my head, but, just, not doing so.

    The ship was built for men wearing top hats to do the same. Does this prove anything ?

  4. I’d wondered about the hand size thing too.

    Certainly almost every builder or farmer I’ve ever shaken hands with had fingers like chippolatas and a width of hand significantly larger than mine.

    Not something I noticed much with office bound working colleagues.

  5. On cuirasses (thank you autocorrect) – I doubt the size tells you much, even if the story’s true. They’re ceremonial, made to make the wearer look big and robust. Just like most ancient Greeks probably did not have bodies like the statues do.

    I also doubt it’s true. I am (or was) a very thin desk worker – 6′ and less than 10st till I was 30. But I couldn’t wear my grandfather’s jacket, who did farm work.

  6. Apparently the commercial vegetable trade was run by folk from the Caucasus, so getting involved in it meant saying hi to some nice chaps from the Chechen mafia.

    Was, always was, and is. The Russians complain that the swarthies (Chechens, Dagestanis, and Azeris) are all running the fruit and vegetable markets, but fail to realise that ethnic Russian men refuse to do such work and lack the trust between each other to even set up a basic supply arrangement. The swarthies fill a hole the Russians are unwilling or unable to fill, but the narrative is that they steal the work and exploit the Russians.

  7. I’m 5’10”, heavily built (42″ chest) and in my yoof used to have a 32″ waist. I’m up to 34″ now and have a gut. 35″ is definitely lardy for a 30yo of that height.

    Hand size is a real problem. The biggest ski gloves I can get are XXL and they are tight in the fingers and especially across the palm. They last a couple of years before I burst the seam between the thumb and the palm. I did plenty of manual work when young, but it’s not that. I just have big hands.

    My No2 Son is a similar size and shape to me. His mother is Han and she’s tiny. It’s all in the genes.

  8. The biggest ski gloves I can get are XXL

    Try shopping outside of Japan. 😉

    I went to a Japanese ski shop looking for ski boots. No chance. Found a pair in Russia. I got my gloves in Helsinki, they sell huge gloves there.

  9. MBE – thanks for that I’ve just ordered it from Amazon. Looks very good.

    Ditto!

    Can’t believe this came out in 2008 when I was in Russia and I missed it!

  10. My brother in Christ in, I think, the Veneto may be able to confirm my impression that Italians tend to have small feet.

    When I was a boy, I say my Dad and a fellow farm worker lift the back end of a milk cow clean off the ground. Of course, it took two of them, the degenerates.

    Not a big man, Dad had decent sized hands, which have slimmed down to more like mine. Partly age,no doubt, but also over twenty years of retirement.

  11. It’s well known that poor diet and heavy work in youth makes you stumpy. Just look at North Korea.
    So if there’d been a height minimum back then you’d have selected giants, with chests to match. More lung capacity than chest musculature, of course.

    Better diet makes you grow up more gracile. It would be interesting to see if their arm armour or leg armour (greaves?) are now routinely too short.

  12. The girls in my US High School in the 50s developed some idea about hand size indicating size elsewhere and there were many giggles as they approached boys and lifted their hands for review.

    I encouraged independent study.

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