The body mass index (BMI) is a convenient guide for evaluating a healthy weight range. It takes into account your height and weight to show whether you’re underweight, average weight, overweight, or obese. BMI is widely used today in healthcare settings to flag potential weight-related health issues or track the chances of obesity.
That said, BMI is only a rough guide. There are multiple alternatives to BMI for providing reliable information on how much body fat you are carrying.
What is BMI?
Body Mass Index or BMI is a body size measurement concerning your weight and height. It is more of an indicator to determine if the weight is healthy and compatible for a particular height. In simple terms, your BMI range estimates your total body fat based on overall weight and height. The higher your BMI, the more overweight you are. However, BMI fails to tell if your overall weight is water, muscle, or fat. Therefore, you cannot consider it a diagnostic tool for body fat percentage.
Despite being used since the 1840s, the concept of Body Mass Index has some drawbacks. The first problem is that BMI as a measure is not representative of all demographics. It considered data involving Europeans to determine the range. Demography plays a role in determining optimum body weight. Also, it does not consider body fat percentage, muscle mass, or body fat distribution, which produces an inaccurate BMI reading.
BMI measure cannot distinguish between fat and muscle. Since muscle tissue is more dense than fat, the density and distribution do not reflect in BMI calculation. For example, the high BMI reading of weight trainers and athletes show as overweight or obese, even when they’re not. Thus, muscular people can be of healthy weight even though their BMI range falls in the obese category.
Another problem is that it doesn’t take into account gender differences. As a result, men and women can have the same BMI readings but different fat percentages.
How to Calculate BMI?
The body mass index is a simple and inexpensive calculation method using your height and weight. BMI calculators are available online, which give you instant results after entering your age, weight, height, and sometimes, gender. However, BMI can get manually calculated with the help of a mathematical formula. As per the formula, you get BMI by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres. Or the mathematical equation terms are as follows;
What Does the BMI Range Indicate?
- If your BMI is under 18.5, you’re considered underweight. It indicates a high risk of malnutrition. People within this BMI range must put on weight to avoid further health complications.
- A BMI value between 18.5 to 24.9 indicates that you’re in the healthy weight range. For most adults, it is the ideal BMI.
- A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is the overweight range. To put it simply, the higher spectrum of the range indicates nearing obesity.
- If your BMI is 30 or more than 30, it shows that you’re in the obese range. It makes you more prone to multiple health problems like heart disease, blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.
BMI Measurement and Weight Category
- Below 18.5: Underweight
- 18.5 to 24.9: Healthy or Normal
- 25 to 29.9: Overweight
- Above 30: Obese
The Ideal BMI Range for Men and Women
For most people, the ideal BMI range is between 18.5 and 24.9. There are, indeed, healthy individuals with BMI values in the 25 to 29 range. On the other hand, if you’re athletic, it is likely to have a BMI score greater than 25 due to greater muscle mass. In addition, BMI can categorise you as overweight or obesity, even when you’re in better shape. Therefore, most health experts recommend a BMI at or above 18.5 as ideal.
The optimum weight for men and women is not solely dependent on BMI calculations. It’s not just weight and height, and the healthiest weight range equally depends on gender, age, ethnicity, body fat distribution, and body frame.
Ideal BMI for Children and Teenagers
The BMI calculation is different when it comes to children and teenagers. In adults, body mass index considers weight and height only. However, the BMI interpretation uses age and gender for children and teens.
To get accurate BMI in children and young adults, the health professional considers specific percentile and growth charts. Factoring in age and gender is essential because children and teenagers tend to gain weight and grow height too slowly or too quickly. The BMI range for them is as follows.
BMI Measurement and Weight Category
- Below 5th percentile for age, gender, and height: Underweight
- 5th to 85th percentile: Healthy Weight
- 85th – 95th percentile: Overweight
- Above 95th percentile: Obese
Health Consequences of High BMI
A high BMI is more or less an indicator of being overweight. According to the data estimated by the World Health Organisation, 1.9 billion adults aged 18 years and older were overweight. In which 650 million adults were obese. The prevalence of overweight and obesity is a global concern. It increases the risk of non-communicable diseases like stroke, insulin resistance, arthritis, and cancer. In severe cases, it might even result in premature death.
High Blood Pressure
A study shows that a high BMI value correlates to high blood pressure. The results show that a transition from normal to higher BMI range increased the systolic blood pressure by more than 10 mmHg. Similarly, the diastolic blood pressure increased by more than 5 mmHg, irrespective of gender. When a person gains excessive weight, visceral fat accumulation gets multiplied. It contributes to 65% to 75% of the primary hypertension risk.
Dyslipidemia is the medical term describing an abnormal rise in cholesterol and lipid levels and carrying extra weight and visceral fat increases the amount of bad cholesterol in your body. Plus, being overweight with a high BMI disrupts the proper management of cholesterol, lipids, and fats in your body. It, in turn, triggers dyslipidaemia.
The findings of an analytical study show that high BMI causes hypertension and dyslipidemia and is also associated with diabetes mellitus. The risk is exceptionally high among morbidly obese individuals with a BMI greater than 35. Furthermore, another study states that even a unit increase in BMI raises the probability of being diabetic by 1.5% among overweight and obese individuals.
Ways to Reduce High BMI
Watch Your Calories
Your energy expenditure must exceed energy consumption to lower your BMI levels. It means that you need to consume fewer calories than you burn. The best way to do that is to avoid binge eating, frequent snacking, and mindless eating. Instead, eat foods rich in soluble fibre, protein, and healthy fats. You can also keep a food journal to record everything you drink and eat. If pen and paper seem like a chore, then online calorie-tracking apps and websites can help.
Entering a calorie deficit diet or meal plan reduces the extra calories you consume without realising it. Reducing the calories you eat will assist in your weight loss journey, eliminating the excess fat responsible for high BMI. People with obesity or those who wish to manage their BMI can try; intermittent fasting, 1200 calorie plan, or 1500 calories meal plan. Don’t dive right into these strict calorie deficit plans. Begin by lowering your calories by 500 per day. However, your nutritional requirement varies based on various factors. It depends on your age, gender, BMI, and current health status.
Be More Active
Following a balanced and calorie-deficit diet will only take you so far. A significant and long term change in body composition is only possible with regular exercise. Get a more active lifestyle to lose fat and build lean muscle tissue. For example, walk your dog, practice yoga, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Furthermore, exercising at least thirty minutes daily burns calories, keeps you refreshed, and lowers the odds of having a higher BMI. However, only thirty minutes to exercise won’t suffice for optimum results.
For an overweight beginner, thirty minutes can be a stepping stone. Then, start incorporating 75 minutes of vigorous exercise and 150 minutes of moderate exercise. Here are some activities you can try to lower your BMI range:
Get More Sleep
Sleep deprivation can become a real problem with your BMI management journey. According to a study, shorter sleep duration leads to higher body mass index. In addition, if you get less sleep than required, the tendency to binge eat unhealthy snacks increases. Thus, calorie consumption exceeds the value of calorie expenditure. Further, sleep-deprived individuals end up eating 300 extra calories per day. The excess calories are stored as fat, leading to higher BMI.
Getting uninterrupted and good quality sleep prevents late-night snacking and stress eating. It also provides your body with enough time to actively burn more calories. After a day of work or school, aim to get eight to nine hours of sleep every night.
Water intake often gets overlooked among the majority of people with high BMI. However, hydration does more for the body than quench your thirst. The more hydrated you are, the better your bodily functions. And the body needs water to burn fat.
Drinking water before meals may suppress your appetite, prompting you to eat less. Staying hydrated also makes your daily exercise routine easier and more effective, contributing to weight loss. A weight reduction is equivalent to a drop in BMI values. Plus, water contains zero calories. However, before you fill your glass, please do not overdo it. Drinking too much water will not lower your BMI quickly. Instead, there can be counterproductive results.
Benefits of Maintaining Healthy Body Weight
Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can benefit you in the long term. It is crucial for overweight or obese people at a higher risk of adverse health outcomes. The perks of staying in a healthy weight range are not limited to wearing one size down dresses. It can also support a longer lifespan. You feel psychologically better, physically energised, and emotionally happier.
- Optimum body weight allows you to manage body fluid levels at optimum levels. For example, blood circulation occurs more efficiently when you fall within the optimum weight range.
- When your weight is in a healthy range, you are less likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, gallstones, certain cancers, obesity, and respiratory issues.
- It optimises your immune system, making your body’s defence mechanism stronger and faster.
- Healthy weight lowers the risk of infertility in men and women. That is because it boosts sperm production and regularises the menstrual cycles.
- You feel more socially confident with better self-esteem.
Body Mass Index (or BMI) represents the relationship between your height and weight. Many healthcare professionals use BMI to determine whether someone is underweight or overweight. Conversely, a higher BMI indicates that you might be overweight or obese. However, BMI is not an accurate measurement of body fat percentage. Also, the BMI calculation is less effective among very active and muscular people like bodybuilders, weight lifters, and athletes. In addition, it does not consider gender, age, race, ethnicity, and body composition factors. As a result, BMI is not an accurate indicator of health.
Nonetheless, BMI calculation gives you a brief insight into your health and weight status which in turn can help determine your risk of developing lifestyle diseases. For instance, it is accurate for extremely underweight individuals. Typically, those with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 are considered overweight. A BMI of 30 and more is far from the ideal range. In addition, we recommend you talk to a health coach and explore other more significant parameters like waist circumference, body fat percentage, location of fat deposition, visceral fat and resultant physical conditions like high triglycerides, high BP, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the correct BMI for my age?
A. BMI does not depend on the age of an individual. It is the body mass index calculated for adults. It is estimated by taking into consideration the height and weight of an individual. The ranges for BMI are:
- Below 18.5: Underweight
- 18.5 to 24.9: Healthy or Normal
- 25 to 29.9: Overweight
- Above 30: Obese
Q. Is a body mass index of 26 good?
A. BMI of 26 falls into the overweight range. Although it is still not an indication of obesity, it can possess the risk of heart diseases, diabetes etc. Since the BMI levels are slightly above the normal or healthy range, you should start making efforts to bring it down to normal. The best way to do so is by modifying your food plans, doing more physical activity, reducing stress etc. Then, you can strive toward healthy weight loss and falling into the normal BMI range.
Q. What is body mass index? Explain.
A. Body Mass Index or BMI is a body size measurement that considers your weight and height. It is an indicator to determine if the weight is healthy and compatible for a particular height. Your BMI range estimates your total body weight based on overall weight and height. The higher your BMI, the more overweight you are. However, BMI fails to tell if your overall weight is water, muscle, or fat. Therefore, you cannot consider it a diagnostic tool for body fat percentage.
Q. What is a healthy weight for a 5’5 female?
A. The healthy weight for a 5’5 female is in the range of 51 kg to 62 kg. If you are 5.5 feet, a normal or healthy weight range would be between 51-62 kgs as per the BMI values. However, it can slightly differ when you calculate it through other calculative measures like waist to hip ratio, body fat percentage calculator etc.
Q. How do you calculate a man’s BMI?
A. The BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in metres. The result will give you a BMI range. As a result, you would know that you fall under which category. The various categories are underweight, normal or healthy, overweight and obese.
Q. What is a good BMI for a man of 5’10?
A. BMI calculation would require both the height and weight of an individual. However, a healthy weight for a 5.10 feet tall man would be around 77 kgs. Some calculation methods estimate the healthy body weight of a 5.10 feet tall man between 73-83.3 kgs. However, healthy body weight depends on various factors. But, you can calculate your BMI values through an easy BMI calculator here.
Q. What is the ideal weight for a 5.6 male in KG?
A. The ideal weight for a 5.6 feet tall man would be 65 to 70.7 kg. However, it depends on your body fat percentage, age, genes etc.
Q. What is BMI for a 6ft man?
A. To calculate the BMI values, it is essential to consider height and weight. However, as per the standard calculations, a 6 ft tall man should range between 72.6 to 88.9 kg.
Q. What should a 5 foot 6-inch man weigh?
A. As per the BMI calculations, a 5.6 ft tall man should maintain a healthy body weight between 58 to 70.7 kg.
Q. What are the health dangers of excess weight?
A. Obesity, in particular, affects nearly every facet of health, from reproductive and pulmonary function to cognition and mood. Obesity raises the risk of various degenerative diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
Q. Do your organs get bigger when you gain weight?
A. Yes, some studies suggest as weight increases, the cells increase in size resulting in the enlargement of organs. However, it is not healthy because your bones start receiving a lot of pressure with an increase in weight, resulting in bone diseases.
Q. Does being overweight affect your brain?
A. Lower cerebral blood flow has been related to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and mental disorders in people with a higher BMI. According to a new brain imaging study, as a person’s weight increases, all regions of the brain experience decreased activity and blood flow. Obesity is linked to decreased cognitive function, plasticity, brain volume, and changed brain structure.
Q. What are the five causes of obesity?
A. Five leading causes of obesity are food and physical activity, genetics, medications and medical conditions, stress, emotional factors, and lack of sleep. However, the most significant causes of obesity are unhealthy eating patterns and sedentary lifestyles.
Q. What is the perfect healthy weight?
A. There is no standard or defined mechanism to project a healthy body weight. Since your body weight depends on several factors like height, fat, genes etc., no specific measurement can define a healthy body weight.
Q. What is a healthy weight for a 5’2 female?
A. As per the BMI calculations, a 5.2 ft tall woman should maintain a healthy body weight between 44.9 to 54.9 kgs. However, several other factors influence your body weight. Hence, you should consider them before assessing your optimum body weight.