Is Body Mass Index a Reliable Measure of Health?

Have you ever gone to the gym and seen the staff set up at a desk, ready to test your BMI?

Maybe your scale tells you what your BMI is every time that you step up and weigh yourself. BMI stands for Body Mass Index, and in the last few years it has become one of the top measures that people use to gauge their health. But should it be?

Body Mass Index is a number that's calculated and it's based on your height and weight. Health professionals have established specific BMI numbers that they say are healthy for a specific height.

The BMI scale says that a BMI under 18.5 means you weigh too little. A BMI of 30 or more means you weigh too much.

A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal.

The Problem with BMI

I’m sure you’ve seen the stories on the news about kids who look pretty healthy being told that their BMI is too high. Star football players are often told their BMI is high.

The reason that this happens is that BMI doesn’t take into account the weight of muscle.

The BMI calculation assumes that weight over their established scale is fat, and that isn’t always true.

Muscle weighs more than fat and there are different kinds of fat. Some kinds of fat are very unhealthy. Visceral fat is the fat that isn’t obvious.

Even skinny people can have it hidden around their organs and muscles, and it's much more damaging than the fat that lies under your skin.

A BMI doesn’t give any valuable information about what type of fat a person has, and that is a very important indication of overall health.

So why do so many health professionals rely on BMI?

Why do they use it as a way to tell whether you are healthy or obese? The reason that BMI has become a popular tool is that it is easy to figure out.

  • Doctors can quickly calculate BMI during an office visit and use it as a way to tell their patients they need to lose weight.
  • People can also figure out BMI on their own and use it as a way to gauge their own progress.
  • There are other measures of health that are more accurate, but they’re also more costly and less accessible.

Doctors would love to be able to send every patient for an MRI to see how much fat or muscle they have, but the cost would be enormous, and the process would be time consuming.

So is there a better way?

BMI is one of the most practical ways for a doctor to gauge a patient’s health. But there are other easy to use tests that are just as helpful.

Measuring your waist, hips, wrist and forearm is one technique. There are online tools to help you with the calculations but my advice is to just record your measurements and then measure monthly. Tracking your measurements will give you a better measure of progress.

If you want to track your own health, why not do it by eating healthier food and exercising more?

You'll feel the differences in your body in ways that no scale could ever measure!

Yours in Health,


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