BMI stands for body mass index, and is a figure that attempts to illustrate someone’s approximate health by taking into consideration his or her height and weight. It is more exact than simply standing on a scale, as it does rely heavily on the person’s height, as well, giving a person (or physician) a better picture of the overall state of one’s body. Its overall goal is to determine an ideal weight for an individual based on these factors. Body mass index also helps doctors and patients talk about weight objectively.
BMI does not take into account a person’s body size, or bone size or athleticism. If someone is legitimately “big boned,” which implies a high bone density, then he or she might be considered overweight by BMI standards when he or she might actually be perfectly healthy. Runners, weight lifters and extreme athletes have other considerations that BMI does not acknowledge.
The normal range of BMI is within 18.5 and 24.9. Anything under 18.5 is underweight on the body mass index. The overweight BMI range is between 25 and 29.9. You are considered obese if your BMI is over 30.You are morbidly obese if your BMI is over 40.
Limitations of BMI
Those with a normal BMI tend to be healthier, overall. It is good to keep in mind, however, the various limitations of the BMI scale. In addition to not accounting for bone density, the scale also does not consider the muscle mass of individuals. It is entirely possible that a person who is incredibly fit may have a BMI that says they are overweight—possibly even obese. A person may also have a relatively healthy weight but be very, very unhealthy in terms of diet, exercise, and / or lifestyle. The BMI is not a hard and fast rule and will not be the perfect scale of measurement for everyone.
BMI and Children
Calculating BMI for children (those under the age of 20) works differently than for adults. While there is the same height to weight aspect, a child’s BMI is also determined through comparison with the BMIs of other children of the same sex and age. So, a child whose BMI falls in the 5th percentile is considered underweight, and one whose BMI falls between the 85th and 95th percentile is overweight. Over the 95th percentile is considered obese. Take this with a grain of salt. Children’s bodies are constantly changing with puberty, baby fat and constant growth. BMI is merely one indication of a child’s overall health.
History of BMI
Despite those disclaimers, the BMI scale, by and large, continues to be one of the most used calculators to make an initial determination of the state of someone’s weight. And it has been the primarily go-to calculator for over one hundred years—seriously!
A man named Lamber Adolphe Jaques Quetelet came up with the formula in 1844 after measuring 5000 Scottish soldiers. It was part of a study he did while developing a field called “social physics,” which refers to looking for laws of statistics in such social phenomena as public health. After the measurement of the 5000 soldiers, the Quetelet index was created and has been used ever sense—though it has been called the body mass index since 1972. In that year, a study was published that stated using the body mass index was better for a population at large than for individuals.
A survey published in 1994 through the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey said that 59% of men and 49% of women in America had BMIs over 25. In 2007, another survey showed that 63% of Americans are now overweight, and that 26% of them are obese. In 1994, 2% of men, and 4% of women were morbidly obese. It is no secret that Americans are, by and large, increasingly becoming overweight and less healthy.
Using BMI for Better Health
While it definitely has its limitations, the body mass index can give you a good, fast, idea about where you stand. Some people don’t want to know; those are the people who probably need to know the most. To be healthiest, one needs to have a healthy diet and a regular exercise regime. It is also important to pay attention to one’s mental and emotional health; life is always stressful, but stress is itself a huge factor in one’s health.
A healthy body can lead to a healthy mind and a healthy spirit. And, figuring out your BMI can be incredibly fast and easy, and it can give you a jumpstart on figuring out what to do about your health! With so many factors that go into determining how healthy you are, why not start with the one that is right in front of you right now? Use the online calculator located on our home page to find out your BMI this second!