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Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Article written by Jim O'Connor

Body Mass Index Chart Misleading

Remember when the body mass index chart first came out? People were running to calculators trying to find out if they are considered overweight and unhealthy. Many, especially athletes, were quickly shocked to find out they were labeled obese. I'm even talking about lean professional athletes who were the picture perfect image of strength, power, and health.

After calculating their body mass index (BMI), many were shocked to find out their calculated number indicated a detriment to their health. So how do you calculate this number anyway? First off, you can be lazy and go to consumer.gov/weightloss/bmi.htm, and have the computer tell you the answer. However, if you want to calculate it yourself simply multiply your weight in pounds by 703 then divide the square of your height in inches. It is that simple.

Now after using a body mass index calculator you get your big number. What does it mean? In most cases, not a heck of a lot. First of all, your BMI doesn't distinguish muscle from fat. You could have a body fat percentage of 8%, with a lot of added muscle, and the body mass index chart will say you are obese, and could be at risk for significant health issues. Now let's take the opposite. Suppose you have never exercised a day in your life and your body fat is 30%, but you weight less than the fit person with an 8% level of body fat. The BMI chart might suggest your weight is right where it should be, and you are at very little risk for health challenges.

This is where the BMI Chart is misleading. Recent studies have even shown a weak and inconsistent correlation between a high BMI and disease or early mortality.

How then can we get an accurate assessment of our link between weight, and disease? My recommendations are to incorporate a multiple assessment such as the following:

1. Body fat percentage should be calculated and considered.

2. Take measurements of you waist, hips, and height. Calculate your waist-to-hip ratio, divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement. Men should be under 0.9, and women should be under 0.8. A good guideline for men is to keep their waists well under 40 inches, and women under 35 inches. Your waist should be one half your height. Now these are rough estimates since many factors go into determining your risk level. For instance, how much exercise do you get? What type of foods do you consume?

However, If your numbers are not in the zone mentioned above, it is time to take action and start exercising and cutting back on calories.

Always consider your body fat percentage versus your lean muscle tissue. Keep the body fat as low as possible, preferably under 30% for both men and women.

Don't rely on the body mass index charts to dictate your chance for disease. Use the multiple approach I have outlined above. It is an intelligent approach for aiding your health and well-being.

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Jim O'Connor - Exercise Physiologist / The Fitness Promoter

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