BMI – which means body mass index – has been the arbiter of what constitutes a healthy body weight for a significant amount of time. However, the simplistic nature of the measurement makes many doubt its validity as a sufficient barometer. Does this mean BMI is flawed when it comes to defining a ‘healthy weight’?
What Are the Strengths of Using BMI?
BMI is beneficial to get a quick idea of whether or not a person is too heavy for their age and height. Being able to break down underweight, healthy, overweight, obese and morbidly obese into clear categories makes it easy for doctors to determine whether someone needs to lose weight. If a very tall person and very short person have a similar body mass then it’s clear that weight is factor in their health. This is especially useful if someone straddles between healthy and overweight or holds their fat deceptively.
Its also useful as a home tool for non-medical professionals. If a person feels as though they have excess weight they can use a BMI calculator online to find out for sure. In a society that puts a lot of pressure on body image, being able to determine whether or not you are healthy with a simple method can be helpful to many. It can also be a more useful tool then simple using what’s on the scales alone to monitor physical wellbeing.
What Are the Weaknesses of BMI?
One of the main weaknesses of BMI is that it does not take into account body composition and activity level. If, for example, a rugby player took the test their body mass index would be very high, suggesting they were overweight or obese. In reality, their activity level keeps them healthy and the excess weight would likely be muscle, not fat. Of course, most people can discern between fat and muscle and only a small minority of the population would fit into this highly athletic category.
Another issue with BMI is that it cannot tell a person if they are actually unwell. Even people with high BMI and high body fat may be medically healthy. Although in this situation a person’s BMI can at least help indicate a person’s risk of weight related illnesses. The statistic potential for diabetes, high blood, pressure, stroke and many other conditions goes up significantly for those with high BMI caused by excess fat.
Should You Take Notice of It?
Since there are pros and cons of using BMI to measure healthy weight you may be asking whether or not you should pay attention to it. Although BMI isn’t perfect it can still offer an easy to understand – and reasonably accurate – picture of your physical condition, so it does have use. Although it can’t offer much detail you can still be objective enough to determine if you have too much body fat based off your waistline and physical appearance. If you’re unsure if you do need to lose weight you can still ask you GP for advice, they can make a more qualified judgement about what you body mass index is telling you.