There’s a good chance that, over the course of your life, you’ve paid a lot of attention to your weight. But sometimes your weight is “just a number.”
Did you know that:
- Muscle weighs more than fat?
- Everyone has a healthy BMI range?
- There are many ways to measure BMI?
Read on to find out what you need to know about a healthy BMI weight range, and how those BMI ranges can impact your health.
What’s a BMI Range?
If you’ve spent years staring at the scale, watching the number rise and fall, we’ve got news for you: weight is much more than just a number. Your BMI, or body mass index, is an indicator of your health in a few ways.
First, your BMI will determine whether you’re overweight, underweight or in a normal range. We’ll look at those numbers in a minute, as they’re fairly straightforward.
Secondly, those with a higher BMI have been shown to be at a higher risk of certain diseases. Cancer, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol are all more likely in those who fall within unhealthy, high BMI ranges.
Finally, even falling within BMI ranges that are too low can have an adverse effect on your health. People who are underweight are more likely to suffer from vitamin deficiencies, anemia and even heart trouble.
So where do you fall? Let’s take a look at how you can calculate your BMI.
What is My BMI?
There’s a simple, straightforward way to measure your BMI. First, take your weight in kilograms and divide it by your height in meters. Then, take that number and divide it by your height in meters again.
That’s it – you’ve calculated your BMI!
So, let’s say you’re 73 kilograms (about 160 pounds) and 1.7 meters (around 5 foot 7).
73 divided by 1.7 = 42.94
42.94 divided by 1.7 again = 25.26
Your BMI is 25.26. But now that you’ve got that number, what do you do with it? What does it mean?
Where is the Healthy BMI Range?
Healthy BMI ranges have very little variance between age groups. There are generally four ranges into which your BMI will fall.
First, you may be underweight. If your BMI falls below 18.5, you’re considered underweight. As mentioned, a BMI that’s too low may put you at risk for certain diseases like malnutrition and even heart conditions.
If your BMI falls between 18.5 and 24.9, you’re considered to be in the normal range. Your BMI is healthy, and won’t necessarily put you at a higher risk of diseases.
If your BMI falls between 25 and 29.9, you’re in the overweight range. Being overweight can cause a host of other problems, including heart attack and stroke, joint disease, bone disease, diabetes and even cancer.
Is your BMI 30 or more? You are considered obese, and should speak with a doctor, nutritionist or other healthcare professional to begin to lose weight. Failing to do so can be fatal.
Are You in the Healthy BMI Weight Range?
So, are you in a healthy BMI range? If you’ve calculated your BMI and the number falls between 18.5 and 24.9, you’re considered in the “healthy range.”
But, as with anything, there are exceptions.
First of all, children (even people as old as 20) don’t follow the same guidelines for BMI calculation. Instead of a solid number, young people’s BMI is calculated as a percentile.
If you’re under 20 and concerned about your weight, it’s best to speak with a doctor or pediatrician. He or she can help to determine whether your weight is healthy, or whether you would benefit from a new diet plan or exercise routine.
If you’re an adult, there’s certainly no harm in visiting a nutritionist or doctor, either. The reason for that is because there are variables which may affect your BMI, giving a sort of a “false reading.”
One of these variables is muscle. See, muscle is four times as dense as fat. That said, those who are avid weightlifters, exercisers or even those who have physically strenuous jobs may have a higher weight than those who are inactive.
Take, for example, an American football player. The average weight of a player in the NFL is 247 pounds! But the average height of an NFL player is 6 feet, two inches.
The average BMI of an NFL player is 31.7. That’s considered obese! But, as you know, most NFL players are in excellent health, and the BMI isn’t indicative of this.
What are the Ranges?
There’s a high probability that you’re not an American football player. And because of that, BMI ranges are generally a very good indicator of your overall health.
So, what are the ranges? Well, as we mentioned, a healthy BMI range is between 18.5 and 24.9. That said, if you’re particularly active – for instance, if you’re a swimmer or a weightlifter – it might be a good idea to talk with your doctor about what is the healthiest BMI range for you.
Men and women over 65 years old will also have different BMI ranges than those who are between 21 and 64. That’s because as we age, our body composition changes. You’ll notice that your weight lies in different places as an older adult than it did when you were younger. You may notice that your stomach is carrying more, if you’re a man. Or, in women, weight may settle more on your hips and thighs.
Are There Other Ways to Measure BMI?
When you visit your doctor or healthcare professional, he or she may simply calculate your BMI using your height in meters and your weight in kilograms.
However, there are other instruments that may be used to determine your overall health. First, there’s the skinfold thickness test. Using calipers, your doctor will measure the amount of fat under your skin on different points of your body. He’ll likely measure your arms, thighs, waist and abdomen, among other places.
Once the skinfold thickness is measured, your doctor can determine your BMI within about 98% accuracy. Using that information, he can make recommendations for diet and exercise.
Another method sometimes used to determine BMI is the underwater weighing method. It’s not commonly used, but the principle behind this method is that fat is more buoyant than muscle.
First, a person is weighed on dry land. In the gym, or in the doctor’s office, for example, Then, that same person is weighed under water. Body mass index is calculated using the differences in the weight.
Finally, there are very “high-tech” ways to measure body fat, including x-rays and other intrusive measures. Those methods, though, are just as accurate as skinfold measurements and underwater weighing. Therefore, they’re not frequently used.
How Important is BMI?
For the average person, and pretty much regardless of age, BMI is a great indicator of your general health. You’re probably not a professional athlete. In fact, you’re probably not even a weightlifter!
Adults from 21 to 65 years old who fall within healthy BMI ranges can safely assume that they’re a normal weight. Those who are in the overweight and obese ranges should likely seek the advice of a healthcare professional. And those who are underweight can assume that they’re at risk for certain health complications.
And BMI is important! Studies have shown that people who have a high body mass index are as much as three times more likely to develop conditions like:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Certain cancers, including breast cancer
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of stroke
- Increased risk of heart disease
To put it simply, it’s important to pay attention to your body mass index. However, it’s also important that you consider other aspects of your health. There are indicators of good health other than BMI, and leading a healthy lifestyle will certainly help to decrease your likelihood of disease.
Watch your BMI, but also be sure you don’t smoke, cut down on alcohol consumption and maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen. Your BMI is important, but active and health-conscious habits are critical to optimal health.