BMI Guidelines and Recommended BMI for Your Body
If you’ve recently been to the doctor for your annual exam, there’s a good chance she took your height and weight. That’s because your height and weight, when measured against each other, can tell your doctor a lot about your health. When calculated a certain way, your height and your weight will determine your BMI, or body mass index.
In this article, we’ll look at what your doctor is doing with those numbers, and how you can keep track of your own BMI. We’ll also talk about:
- What BMI guidelines say about your optimal weight
- What the recommended BMI is for adults and children
- How your BMI can help predict your future health
Ready to learn more? Here’s everything you need to know about body mass index guidelines.
What is your body mass index?
Your body mass index, or BMI, is derived by taking your weight and then dividing your height into it, twice. The calculations have to be done in metric, if you’d like to use this exact formula. In other words, in kilograms and meters. Using pounds and inches will result in a number that’s not even close to your BMI.
If you do want to use pounds and inches, you can. But you’ll use a different formula. To find your BMI using imperial measurements, first take your height in inches and multiply it by itself (square it). Then, take that number and divide it into your weight in pounds. Finally, multiply that number by 703, and you’ve got your BMI.
Whichever method you use to calculate your BMI is okay. Or, you could just use our BMI calculator. You’ll plug your measurements in and your BMI is calculated for you. Once you’ve determined what your body mass index is, you’ll want to know what it means, right?
Let’s take a look at the recommended BMI for adults.
Is there a recommended BMI?
Yes! There is absolutely a recommended BMI. If you’re between the ages of 21 and around 65, it’s recommended that your body mass index fall between 18.5 and 24.9. If you do fall within these recommended guidelines, you’re at a much lower risk of being diagnosed with some pretty serious diseases.
People who have a BMI of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight. That doesn’t mean you’re absolutely going to be diagnosed with a disease. It does, however, put you in a much higher risk category.
If your BMI is over 30, you’re considered obese. And if its over 40, you’re considered morbidly obese.
People in these BMI ranges are at an extreme risk for disease. Diseases related to overweight BMI and obese BMI include heart disease and stroke, certain types of cancer like breast and prostate cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart attack, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
On the flip side of that, people with a BMI that’s lower than 18.5 should be cautious, too. Those people are considered underweight, and are at risk for malnutrition, anemia and even heart problems.
Are there BMI guidelines for health?
Yes! Because people who fall outside of the “normal” range for BMI are at greater risk for disease, there are widely established BMI guidelines for health.
As you might have guessed, the guidelines state that, in order to reduce your risk of disease, you should aim to maintain a BMI within that range.
Again, having a body mass index that falls outside of the 18.5 to 24.9 range doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to have cancer. Nor does it guarantee heart attack or any disease. But you should take precautions to ensure that your BMI falls within that range, and that you’re living a healthy lifestyle.
What about BMI guidelines for kids?
Kids have slightly different BMI guidelines than adults do. And if you’re concerned about your child’s weight, the best thing for you to do is visit your pediatrician and talk to her about ways to keep your child healthy.
Generally speaking, kids are resilient, healthy little people. When they get plenty of exercise (as easy as running around outside) and eat a healthy diet, young people have a tendency to remain within a good weight range.
That said, kids all grow at different rates and at different times. Your doctor will calculate your child’s BMI in the same way yours is calculated. However, once the final number is determined, it’s compared to others of similar age and gender.
This comparison is done by plotting your child’s BMI on a graph. If the BMI falls anywhere between the 5th to 85th percentile, there’s a good chance your kid is perfectly healthy. If you still have concerns, do consult the doctor. She can give you tips, or can refer you to a nutritionist who can help your family with meal planning and other lifestyle choices.
What does the BMI say about the body?
Your BMI guarantees neither good health nor poor health. However, knowing that you fall within a good range for a healthy BMI can help to assure you that you’re on the right track toward disease prevention.
People who fall within a healthy BMI range experience many benefits. Take a look:
- People who have a healthy BMI have more energy than those who are over- or underweight.
- Women who are at a healthy weight prior to pregnancy are more likely to have a healthy, full term pregnancy
- Furthermore, increased fertility is more likely in both men and women who are at a healthy BMI
- Both men and women with a healthy BMI are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer by 30 to 60%
- When you’re a healthy weight, you’re more motivated to exercise, giving you a cyclical benefit of maintaining that healthy BMI
- People who fall within the healthy weight range are less likely to be depressed or suicidal
- A healthy BMI can mean a longer life, according to the most recent studies
So, you see? There are some surprising benefits to a healthy BMI.
Conversely, you may be interested to know what happens to your body if your weight falls outside of healthy BMI guidelines. People who have a higher than recommended BMI:
- Are more likely to become depressed, suicidal, or on antidepressants
- Are more likely to develop addictive behaviors
- Are less likely to sleep well, which causes a domino effect of poor work performance and the like
- Obesity is expensive – higher medical bills are a result of obesity
- People who are overweight – even just a few pounds – are more likely to suffer joint problems like arthritis and bursitis
- Obesity is a cycle – as you gain weight and the more inactive you are, the slower your metabolism will work, causing you to gain weight
People who are underweight are also at risk:
- Underweight people are more likely to be malnourished, leading to skin, hair, organ and other maladies
- People who have a BMI lower than the norm are more likely to develop anemia
- Osteoporosis is a common problem in people who are underweight – bones may become brittle and bone loss may be suffered
It is important to stay within an ideal range for BMI and keep your weight within healthy BMI guidelines. Failing to do so can mean the difference between being healthy and being diagnosed with a disease.
Tips for staying within BMI guidelines
Keeping yourself at a healthy weight isn’t hard! In fact, you can start now by taking a few small steps each day to improve your overall health, and bring your weight down to a healthy level. Of course, if you’re obese or morbidly obese, it may be best to talk to a physician before you begin changing your diet or exercising more. Once you’re cleared to start, though, try the following:
Walk on the far side of the parking lot. And wear a pedometer! Taking 10,000 steps per day may seem overwhelming, but it’s quite within a normal range – and can burn an extra 500 calories!
Don’t go to the grocery store when you’re hungry. Make a list of the food you’ll need for the week, and stick to it. Avoid impulse buys, as they’re usually empty calories.
If you’re concerned about your kids’ weight, limit screen time in favor of playing outside. Take a walk as a family, or encourage your teen to ride a bike or even earn money walking neighborhood dogs.
Buy a cookbook! Sometimes we fall into the rut of cooking the same, unhealthy foods because they’re quick and easy. Step away from routine, buy a healthy cookbook, and learn a new tricks for quick and easy meals.