Body Mass Index (BMI) has been used from time immemorial to help people determine if they’re overweight or not. It is an easy-to-use weight barometer that helps you determine, beyond appearances, whether or not your health may be at risk. We all know that looks can be deceiving; a short, medium-build friend of mine was recently declared overweight after his BMI was measured by a team of mobile nutritionists. But you don’t have to wait for your next visit to the hospital to make this discovery. You can easily use the BMI formula to determine your weight status yourself. Here it is: get your weight in pounds and divide it by the square of your height in inches. Multiply the result by 703 (no, I don’t know why it had to be 703), and presto you have your BMI. If you don’t feel like troubling yourself with these calculations, simply search for an online BMI calculator. There are plenty of these.
So what do the results imply? Well, if your BMI works out to a figure above 30, you have reason to be concerned. It means that you are obese and that if you fail to take drastic measures to cut down your weight, you face the risk of complications such as heart failure, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Those with a BMI between 25 and 30 are categorised as overweight and also face a similar degree of risk to their wellbeing. But if your BMI lies between 18.5 and 24.9, you have no reason to worry; you’re a specimen of health (not that this gives you license to gouge yourself on junk and ignore whatever has been said on the importance of exercise).
What are some of the BMI’s shortcomings?
However, it has been argued that the resulting figure may not be a true reflection of how much body fat one has. Some have gone as far as dismissing BMI as a ‘useless statistic’. For starters, body builders or other athletes whose body mass is high, not because of fat, but due to how much muscle they have, will inevitably be declared overweight or obese based on their BMI. In essence, being declared fat even when they may be completely lean. And it is true that this measurement does not tell the difference between muscle and body fat. Or, for that matter, bone density (those with heavy bones are likely to be classified as overweight or obese). For this reason many are of the opinion that the good old tape measure round the waist provides a more accurate picture as concerns body fat.
Does age affect your Body Mass Index?
As we grow older, for instance, muscle wastes away. This may lead to a person being identified as underweight whereas they may be healthy. However, there are BMI charts that classify results according to age and BMI calculators that factor in the subject’s age. The gender of the subject should also be taken into account as it has been found that at the same BMI, men will generally have less body fat than women.
What are you going to do about it?
My parting shot is this; no matter which side of the fence you are in the BMI debate, you can use the formula to determine a target weight to accomplish should you be found to be overweight. Many people have done this wondering how they could possibly lose that much weight and remain alive only to attain their target weight and feel really good about themselves. Don’t be among the people who get their BMI figure and lapse into despair. Take it a day at a time and set small, achievable milestones; get a fitness regime going and start tweaking your diet.
Share your thoughts?
What do you think of BMI as a measure of being healthy? Have you ever used it when trying to lose weight?