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Does your BMI really matter?

Jason Greve BMI and health Body Mass Index myths healthy BMI should I worry about BMI

‘Body Mass Index’, or BMI, has been somewhat of a ‘buzz term’ in the health field for quite some time now. Essentially used as a guide for measuring overall health and fitness, health practitioners the world over have been urging the population to look at their individual BMI as a guide for how their body is performing. However, this increased reliance and importance on BMI has resulted in many questioning whether or not it is a good indicator of a person’s overall health. After all, body builders and athletes often have what is seen as an ‘unhealthy’ BMI, when in fact, they are some of the healthiest people on the planet. So how much does your BMI really matter for the Average Joe?

Your BMI is calculated using your weight in kilograms divided by your height in meters, squared. Initially created to showcase the amount of fat someone has compared to their height and size, health professionals hailed it as an easy and effective way of gauging the health of millions of people quickly. It is recommended that people’s BMI is between 18 and 25, with anything under 18.5 seen as underweight and anything over 24.9 as overweight (and over 29.9 being obese). Critics however suggest that a ‘one size fits all’ approach simply isn’t relatable and simply calculating numbers based on weight and height are wrong, with more in-depth analysis needed to determine a person’s health. According to professionals, it is possible – and common – for someone seen as ’underweight by the BMI standards, or indeed ‘overweight’, to be healthy; and potentially even healthier than someone who finds themselves in the middle of the ‘ideal range’.

A BMI calculation for example does not take into account body fat, and in particular, doesn't indicate where fat is distributed on the body. And as we all know, ‘belly fat’ – or fat around the abdomen greatly increases the risk of a range of health issues and diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, and in serious cases, can cause death. Whereas peripheral fat, which is fat beneath the skin elsewhere in the body, has been shown to potentially be less dangerous. BMI has also come under scrutiny for failing to take into account differences in gender, age, race and activity level – but to name a few.

BMI has seemingly been a victim of its own success. The increased reliance on it as a measure for health has caused many to rebuff the gauge as nothing more than a simple waste of time. Those against the measurement have suggested the only reason or its popularity is due to its simplicity and low-cost. Other methods for measuring health for example, such as MRI scans, are much more accurate as they show where fat is stored in the body, thus giving medical experts a better indication of the ins and outs of the body. However MRI scans are expensive so wouldn’t be feasible for every patient. 

For most, BMI is a rough guide for health, however it is widely suggested that it is not taken as the ‘gold standard’ for measuring health and well-being. The only real way you can measure your health is by maintaining a healthy, balanced diet, undertaking regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight for you as an individual and what you feel comfortable with.

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