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BMI not a good measure if you're muscular or athletic

Updated on May 18, 2007

Body Mass Index (BMI) can be used to indicate if you are overweight, obese or underweight. It will, however, overestimate fatness in people who are muscular or athletic. It is not a good index for adolescents or children.

Excess weight is a problem facing an estimated 97 million adults in the United States. Currently, about one-fifth of all U.S. adults are believed to be considerably overweight. There are more "obese" people in the U.S. today than ever according to several medical journals and the ADA -- The American Dietetic Association.

We all know exercise is the best thing for us! But before you decide to pursue a weight-loss program, you should understand the definition, causes and health risks of being overweight. Here is some important information that may help motivate you to tackle this complex and serious health condition, if you are indeed overweight.

What's the Difference Between Being Overweight and Being Obese?

The terms "overweight" and "obese" are often used interchangeably. Although they both refer to excess body weight, they refer to different degrees of this condition. To determine the degree of a person's excess body weight accurately, many doctors use something called a Body Mass Index, or BMI, a measurement of weight that takes height into account.

A person with a BMI of 25 to 29.99 is considered "overweight." A person with a BMI of 30 or greater, or who is at least 30 lbs overweight (depending on height), would be diagnosed as "obese", the condition of being considerably overweight. A registered dietitian or health care provider can help you determine your BMI and put you on a healthy diet.

To calculate your BMI:

Take your Weight in pounds multiply that by 704

Divide that number by height in inches

Divide that number by height in inches again

19 - 24.9 = You Are Fit

25 - 29.9 = Overweight. You should address the problem now! This is when health issues may begin (high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol)

30+ = Obese = High risk for health problems.

Your BMI and what it says about your health

Most medical personnel will tell you that being overweight is unhealthy. A long list of ailments await those who are overweight or obese. These include increased risks of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes just to name a few. Have you ever stopped to think however, that the definition of overweight means different things to different people?

For instance, a 5 foot 4 inch tall woman can be considered overweight at 160 pounds while a 6 foot 2 inch man is on the thin side at 160 pounds. How do you know what's the ideal weight for you? One way is to put everything on the same scale by adjusting for height. This can be done using the Body Mass Index (BMI) calculation.

The problem with BMI

The problem with BMI is that is it not a good measure if you're muscular or athletic. The BMI is used by doctors to assess patients that are overweight or obese. It does a very good job of describing relative weight for any given height and measures your overall total body fat content. It does not however, differentiate between people with too much fat and athletic, muscular body type people. Thus, you should really use BMI in conjunction with other body composition assessments.


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  • Maddie Ruud profile image

    Maddie Ruud 10 years ago from Oakland, CA

    Fabulous hub. Too many people calculate their self-worth by their BMI.

  • profile image

    Debby 8 years ago

    I am 5'3" and I weigh 170, I work out daily, both cardio and weight training. I have muscular legs and arms and I did a measurment test on all areas of my body which included wrist, bicepts etc... and it said that I had 130 pounds of lean muscle and 40 pounds of fat. It also put me in the obese range which was 29. I was wondering if I am considered overweight because I do have a lot of muscle?

  • profile image

    kitty 8 years ago

    I am 4'5 and weigh 65 pounds of fat am I overweight or not

  • profile image

    Anthony 7 years ago

    yaaahhhh exactly, i'm 5'8 and 220lbs with 7% body fat and my BMI is 33...i think you're totally right that the BMI calculation is very flawed. But I guess I'm obese according to the chart lol

  • profile image

    Willy 7 years ago

    I know I'm definitely overweight,and last monday I started

    my running routine.I'm 5'71/2 & I weigh 252Ibs.Yeah I'd say

    that's truly overweight but I'm naturally heavyset and yes

    I've always been active throughout my childhood to now(with

    sports,walking,running,construction)but I've always been

    more on the bulkyside).Of course I have muscles,however I do

    have more body fat,but I've always been an athlete,I'm very

    very athletic.However if you saw me you probabaly wouldn't

    think I'm as athletic as I say I'am.I run very very well for

    my size,I can hop over a fence the height of my neck(mind

    you I'm only 5'71/2)I can do more than 50 push-ups,I've al-

    ways been able to exercise at a high level with guys half my size and/or guys 30,40,50,60 Ibs lighter than me,many of

    them tend to be(on average)at least 3 to 4 inches taller

    than me as well.My friends have always been impressed with

    my ability to not only have the strenght & power,but to have

    the complete athletic abilities that I possess.They give me

    a lot of props for it,as well as trash-talk too.So when we

    play football and I'm put at the runningback positon,people

    who don't know what they[my friends]know about my athletic

    talent think wow he's runningback and they soon find out

    why I'm playing that position.Most of them are lost for

    words,their literally paralyzed when they get a look and/or

    taste at what I can do.Whether it be Baseball,football,bask-

    etball or just plain exercise.

  • profile image

    7 years ago

    BMI is a useless tool, its just a meaningless ration

  • profile image

    Ty 7 years ago

    haha I'm 6'0 186 pounds but low fat and i got 26. so i guess im pretty damn fat :P

  • profile image

    sarah 6 years ago

    hi I'm a 13 year old female who is 5'5 and is 135 pounds. Although I tend to believe that I am overweight, I am also very active and muscular. I walk my dog everyday for an hour, I do gymnastics, and I go swimming everyday for at least a half hour. I also eat about 1,500 calories a day. Am I overweight or is all my weight supported by muscle?

  • profile image

    birdella 6 years ago

    5'5 and 135 you sound very thin to me i am 5'4 150 pounds and I am not fat i have very muscular build the BMI isn't accurate enough to go by

  • profile image

    teach 6 years ago

    According to my doctor, the BMI issue is a pointless pursuit as far as guaging everybody's potential for weight related hazards are concerned.I am 5'9,47 years old and 230 pounds.This is however, 230 pounds of MUSCLE.While BMI states that I am obese, my cholesterol,pressure and blood sugar readings show that I am, in fine form. Infact, I am in better health than lots of people younger than I am.I say go with the above-mentioned stats to guage your health.

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    murph 6 years ago

    i am 6 foot 0" weigh approximately 260 pounds and have been lifting for years, with the exception of the past year due to a back inhjury. My BMI is around 37, which says I am obese, but couldn't be farther from the truth. I feel I do need to trim down a little and possibly cut for a few cycles, but I am nowhere near obese.

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