It’s easy to judge someone’s health based on their appearance, but looks can oftentimes be deceiving.
That’s why the Body Mass Index (BMI) exists—to provide a more scientific and accurate way of assessing an individual’s weight and general health status.
Regardless of its widespread usage, many scientists have claimed that this assessment is not always a reliable tool. The BMI scale has been accused of failing to accurately reflect sex, body composition, muscle mass, bone density, overall body shape, and racial background.
That said, it’s still okay to use as a general benchmark for assessing health risks associated with a person’s weight and size.
Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of BMI, the healthy ranges, and how it’s calculated.
What Is Body Mass Index (BMI)?
The BMI scale is a medical screening tool used to measure a person’s weight in relation to their height.
It’s often used to measure obesity and other health risks associated with being overweight or underweight.
For the majority of individuals, their BMI accurately reflects their body fat percentage. However, in some cases—such as with very muscular people—the BMI reading may not be an accurate representation.
Additionally, the BMI scale does not account for any personal internal health conditions. Heart disease, diabetes, low testosterone levels, and other health conditions can’t be properly diagnosed with a mere BMI scale reading.
Due to this limitation, the BMI reading is often taken alongside other standardized screening tests to determine one’s overall health profile.
How Is BMI Calculated?
BMI is calculated in the same way for all people, regardless of their sex, age, or ethnicity.
The formula for BMI is as follows:
The Formula for Kilograms and Meters
Formula: weight (kg) / [height (m)]^2
The formula for BMI in the metric system is weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. Because height is generally measured in centimeters, divide it by 100 to get height in meters.
Example: Weight = 70 kg; Height = 170 cm (1.7 m)
Calculation: 70 ÷ (1.7)^2 = 24.22
The Formula for Pounds and Inches
Formula: weight (lb) / [height (in)]^2 x 703
For pounds and inches, BMI is calculated by dividing weight in pounds (lbs) by height in inches (in) squared, and then multiplying the resulting value by 703.
Example: Weight = 165 lbs, Height = 5’8″ (68″)
Calculation: [165 ÷ (68)^2] x 703 = 25.08
Weight Ranges for BMI
The value obtained by calculating BMI is then used to classify a person’s weight into four categories, ranging from underweight to morbidly obese.
Here are the BMI ranges with their respective weight status classification:
- Underweight: Below 18.5
- Normal Weight:5 to 24.9
- Overweight: 0 to 29.9
- Obese: 30 and above
As an example, let’s take a look at the BMI values for an individual who is 5’6 in height:
- Underweight: Below 115 lbs
- Normal Body Weight: 115 to 155 lbs
- Overweight: 155 to 180 lbs
- Obese: 180 lbs and above
With all that considered, it’s important to stress that the above figures aren’t meant to be solely indicative of one’s general health status.
For instance, despite being categorized as overweight or even obese according to the BMI scale, individuals with muscular and lean body mass may still be in a healthy weight range.
It’s always best to consult a healthcare professional when tracking your health and assessing risk factors.
How Reliable Is BMI as a Body Fat Indicator?
While BMI categories may seem reliable at a glance, recent studies have claimed that it’s not the most reliable body fat indicator.
The case of athletes having high BMI has been touched upon extensively up to this point, but it’s important to mention that elderly people are at risk of misinformed readings too.
According to one study, elderly people can have low or healthy-looking BMI readings but are susceptible to carrying more body fat than medically recommended.
This is because the skeletal muscle mass undergoes a natural decrease with age, causing our skeletal weight to decrease, but not necessarily fat weight.
Furthermore, BMI does not account for sex and other conditions. Pregnant women, people with cancer, and people with bone health conditions like osteoporosis are evaluated in the same way as other individuals.
This lack of distinction can skew their results and lead to misinterpretation of their weight-related health.
If you’re eager to know your body fat percentage, visit a doctor to get a proper evaluation of your body health.
3 Ways to Decrease Body Fat Percentage Naturally
Staying overweight and obese can lead to detrimental health problems in the long run.
If you want to take action and reduce your body fat percentage, here are a few things you can do:
1. Increase Activity Level
Exercising regularly can be a potent way to reduce the visceral fat around your body. Aerobic exercises like swimming, cycling, and running can be done to great effect, but if you want to accelerate your fat reduction, consider incorporating strength training into your regimens.
According to one study, strength training on top of aerobic exercises can help improve your muscle strength and fitness levels. As such, try lifting weights and undergoing a resistance training program.
2. Eat Protein-Rich Food
Protein-rich food does two things: it increases fullness levels and increases your fat burning.
With that said, be sure to incorporate high-quality sources of protein into your diet. Lean beef, fish, chicken breast, and eggs are all excellent sources of protein that can help you stay fuller for longer.
3. Consider Intermittent Fasting
When it comes to weight loss, it’s not only what you eat, but when you eat.
According to one study, intermittent fasting in conjunction with resistance training has been proven to be effective in reducing weight in individuals.
That said, it’s key to talk with a doctor to ensure that this diet is suitable for your specific case.
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BMI is a helpful tool to determine one’s weight. However, it’s not always the most reliable indicator of one’s health status.
Instead of constantly looking at a number on a scale, it’s much better to take proactive steps to reduce your body fat percentage naturally.
Regular exercise, eating protein-rich foods, and intermittent fasting have all been proven to be effective in helping individuals reach their ideal weight.
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