Body Mass Index (BMI)

By Renee Rogers RD, LDN

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a formula that compares your weight to your height. This tool measures whether or not you are within a healthy weight range by assessing your body fat.

The two different formulas to calculate BMI are:
BMI = [Weight (pounds) x 703] / [Height (inches) x Height (inches)]
BMI = [Weight (kg)] / [Height (meters) x Height (meters)]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses BMI to define the following weight ranges:

CategoryBMI range
Underweightbelow 18.5
Normal Weight18.5 to 24.9
Overweight25.0 to 29.9
Obese30.0 and above

Individuals not within the normal weight range tend to have the greatest health risks. BMI is a fairly accurate indicator for most adults. However, it is important to remember that it is just one of many tools to measure overall health and comes with its flaws as well.

BMI does not give an accurate result for the entire population. Athletes, elderly, and children are likely to get inaccurate results due to additional factors. Athletes, for example, tend to have excess muscle mass so are likely to find they are overweight using BMI.

BMI does not take lifestyle behaviors into account, which also affect overall health. Cigarette smoking, level of physical activity, stress maintenance, and quality of diet can all either increase or decrease your risk of developing health problems depending on how they relate to you.

Even with its flaws, BMI still remains an inexpensive alternative to direct measurement of body fat and can be a valuable tool in assessing health risk. However, you should always work closely with your health-care provider to assess all factors affecting your health.

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