The first step towards a healthy lifestyle transformation should include a clear understanding of Body Mass Index or BMI
Improving body composition is an essential to developing and maintaining optimum health and performance. Although there are many ways to measure body composition, body mass index (BMI) has long been a standard measurement among researchers.
Many people don’t understand what BMI is and how it relates to their health and risk of developing diseases. BMI has some limitations that you should consider in order to use it effectively and get a more accurate measure of your current level of health.
What is BMI?
Body mass index was developed in the mid-1800’s to establish a way to determine an individual’s weight as it relates to a healthy ideal. It calculates a person’s weight in relation to height and has been used in numerous studies to measure the risk of disease among the general population.
BMI is defined as follows:
- Weight(kg)/height(m)2 = BMI
According to this formula, an individual with a high weight in relation to height has a higher BMI. Conversely, a taller individual with a lower weight will have a lower BMI.
A BMI over 25 suggests an increased risk for common health issues and diseases. In addition, excessive body weight has been associated with a greater mortality risk.
Studies support the fact that an increased BMI correlates with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and the incidence of strokes. For researchers, BMI is widely accepted as an effective variable when studying health and disease.
BMI assumes that a higher weight equates with more body fat. But because body composition also accounts for other tissues such as bones, organs, and connective tissue, the general public may misinterpret BMI.
The following are the current BMI classifications for BMI:
- Normal = 18.5 – 24.9
- Overweight = 25 – 29.9
- Obesity I: 30 – 34.9
- Obesity II: 35 – 39.9
- Obesity III: >40
Although BMI is traditionally used in research, it does have its limitations. This has caused many to reconsider its accuracy and validity in determining the risk of disease among certain portions of the general population.
Other methods that use circumference and skinfold measurements may be more useful in determining one’s health and risk of disease.
The limitations of using BMI are most apparent when considering athletic individuals. Athletes are more likely to have a higher percentage of lean muscle relative to body fat. Although they are far from being overweight, using the BMI measurement could suggest otherwise.
Muscle tissue is denser than fat, which would cause an athlete’s weight to increase significantly as they develop strength. Although their body fat composition may remain unchanged, their weight will increase in relation to their height.
Using BMI can lead to confusion for individuals who are exercising to lose weight. Therefore, health professionals should be careful when using BMI to monitor the progress of athletic individuals.
Non-athletic individuals can still use BMI as a reliable measure of their health and risk of developing diseases. It continues to be an essential component in assessing the health of a large majority of the population.
Measuring BMI must be done correctly in order to make it a valid measurement for health professionals. Factors such as changes in posture, training effects on weight, and clothing must be considered when monitoring BMI over time.
BMI is only one element of assessing individuals and their health. Other components include one’s heart rate, blood pressure, and aerobic capacity. BMI should be used alongside a comprehensive assessment process in order to provide the most useful information to health professionals and their patients.
Body mass index is a standard tool for health researchers and provides valuable information regarding health. It’s limitations must be considered in order to provide an effective measure for researchers.
Understanding BMI and how it relates to your health will help you understand your true level of health so that you can maintain long-term wellness.