What is the Body Mass Index (BMI)?

Written by Amy Pusey (last updated April 22, 2009)

In the battle of the bulging waistlines, personal trainers and doctors alike use a common tool in order to help them develop effective dietary plans and fitness regimens to assist their clients in losing excess weight. You may often hear the term BMI, which stands for Body Mass Index. The tool is used to estimate an individual's body composition by showing a relationship between the height and weight. You may be curious as to how to calculate your own BMI. It is a simple formula, and can be learned by completing the following steps:

  1. Multiply your weight (in pounds) by 703.
  2. Take the result from Step 1 and divide it by your height (in inches.)
  3. Using the new result from Step 2, divide that figure by your height (in inches.)
  4. The result is your Body Mass Index.

Now, in order to put your BMI into perspective, compare it to the table below to learn if it falls into a healthy or unhealthy range. Keep in mind that even an underweight BMI is typically considered to be unhealthy. The categories are:

  • Underweight (=<18.5)
  • Normal Weight (= 18.6-24.9)
  • Overweight (=25-29.9)
  • Obesity (=30 or greater)

It is important to note that the BMI can overestimate body fat in extremely fit individuals, such as athletes, who may have a muscular build, as opposed to additional fat. Conversely, it could possibly underestimate the body fat in individuals who are older or exhibit other health conditions that may have caused a loss of muscle mass. Where children are concerned, an annual increase in your child's BMI is typically contributed to a natural increase in the lean mass and not fat content. Once your child enters late adolescence (late teens,) then a closer look at fat mass should occur.

Besides being underweight or overweight, there are other risk factors that may impact your BMI results. These factors include:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High blood glucose (sugar)
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Physical inactivity

While maintaining your weight and participating in an adequate exercise program are important, a healthy lifestyle should also include a nutritious and balanced diet. This does not mean you need to consume only dietary foods or eliminate all of your favorite meals from your usual diet. Instead, evaluate your dietary habits, and to make it a healthier one, be sure it includes the following:

  • Dairy. Include dairy products that are fat-free or low-fat. It is recommended that children up to at least age 5 consume whole-fat milk. This does not refer only to milk and cheese, but think about adding natural yogurt—it comes in a variety of flavors and makes a great snack or dessert alternative.
  • Fruits and Vegetables. About 3-4 servings of each category per day are recommended. If you do not like the usual fruit offerings of grapes, bananas, or oranges, try something different to add excitement to your diet, such as mangoes, pineapples, or exotic melons. Be certain that you buy any canned items that are only packed in water; otherwise, they are packed in syrup, adding calories and increasing your sugar intake.
  • Whole Grains. There is less natural sugar in whole grains and more fiber, so look at whole grain items that can include rice, cereal, couscous, bulgur, bread, and pasta.
  • Protein. Healthy foods enriched with protein, which helps fuel your body, include poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, beans, and lean meats. Remember, too much red meat can be very unhealthy, so limit your weekly intake of it and be sure to consume lean cuts of meat.
  • Fats and Sugar. Whatever you include your daily diet, read the labels to help you make informed decisions. You want your diet to contain items that are low in saturated fats, sodium, trans fats, and added sugar. Also, monitor your cholesterol and consume foods that will help keep it low.
  • Calories. Simply stated, watch your daily calorie intake. Do your best to stay within the recommended caloric range suggested for your body composition.

Does a new healthy diet mean you have to give up all of your favorite comfort foods? Absolutely not, but it does require moderation and altering some of them to lessen their negative impact on your diet. For example, consume them less often by cutting back to a weekly basis, eat smaller portions because portion control is important in every diet, and change how you cook the food. If you always served it battered, breaded, or fried, try having it baked or broiled flavored with seasoning.

Author Bio

Amy Pusey

With over 18 years experience in operations and human-resource management, Amy Pusey uses her skills in her consulting and freelance writing activities. She is a freelance writer for Tips.net, as well as a resume writer for GreenThumbResumes.com. ...


Strength Training Programs

A healthy body is achieved by following a simple plan. Use strength training to build core muscles, lose excess weight by ...

Discover More

Summer Makeup Tips

Most women leave the house every day with at least one cosmetic applied to their faces. Whether you wear a little or a ...

Discover More

Fashion Tips for the Plus-Size Man

Men are far more fashion conscious these days. While all men may not necessarily wish to be likened to the formerly ...

Discover More
More Health Tips

Five Components of Physical Fitness

Knowing how you score in the five areas of physical fitness will give you a better understanding of how your body is ...

Discover More

Strength Training Programs

A healthy body is achieved by following a simple plan. Use strength training to build core muscles, lose excess weight by ...

Discover More

Exercising while Short on Time

Don't have time to exercise? Think again! There are some things you can do to get those exercises done, even if you are ...

Discover More

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is seven minus 7?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)