What Does BMI stand For

The last time you saw your primary care physician, they may have mentioned something called BMI. BMI stands for Body Mass Index. BMI is a calculation used by healthcare professionals as an indirect method of indicating a person’s body fat category and body composition, not total body fat percentage.

How Is BMI Calculated? 

BMI is used as a screening tool to identify whether an adult is at a healthy weight. It’s a numerical value that measures your weight in relation to your height. For the average person BMI is a decent indicator of health, however for those that carry more weight such as athletes and bodybuilders, BMI is not an accurate indication of body mass. Other factors such as strength, speed, power, and overall aesthetics are better indications of athletic performance and health as compared to BMI for active individuals. If your goals are to build more muscle mass and look good in the mirror, BMI doesn’t really hold much value.

BMI is used to screen the general population, to assess risk factors associated with obesity and chronic health conditions. Those who are overweight or obese are generally at risk for chronic health conditions such as

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Select Types of Cancer

A Meta-Analysis of 239 prospective clinical trials over four different continents, found that both overweight and obese individuals were associated with higher risks of mortality under all conditions [R].

To calculate your BMI all you need is your weight and height, for example.

  • BMI Formula: weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703
  • Example: weight = 150 lbs., height = 5’5” (65")
  • BMI calculation: [150 / (65)2] x 703 = 24.96

How To Analyze Your BMI Results

After you have calculated your BMI, you can simply interpret the results by referencing the scale below to see where you fall in relation to a general measure of overall health.  

  • A BMI of less than 18.5 kg/m2 is considered underweight.
  • A BMI between 18.5 – 25 kg/m2 indicates a healthy body weight.
  • A BMI between 25 kg/m² and 29.9 kg/m² is considered overweight.
  • A BMI of 30 kg/m² or higher is considered obese.

Other Methods To Measure Body Fat

If your goal is to increase muscle mass and strength, BMI may not be the best indication for body fat and overall health. Several other methods for measuring body fat are available, which will provide a more accurate measurement, such as underwater weighting, the use of body fat calipers, and bioelectrical impedance.

What Is BMI: Takeaway

BMI is not a direct measure of how obese someone is, but rather an estimation of body composition. BMI can be used as a good benchmark to interpret your body fat may impact your overall health. Obesity is associated with many risk factors and chronic diseases with a direct link to mortality rates. If your goal is overall health and wellness, keeping yourself between a BMI of 18.5 – 25 kg/m2 will provide a decent measure of health.  


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Global BMI Mortality Collaboration, Di Angelantonio E, Bhupathiraju ShN, Wormser D, Gao P, Kaptoge S, Berrington de Gonzalez A, Cairns BJ, Huxley R, Jackson ChL, Joshy G, Lewington S, Manson JE, Murphy N, Patel AV, Samet JM, Woodward M, Zheng W, Zhou M, Bansal N, Barricarte A, Carter B, Cerhan JR, Smith GD, Fang X, Franco OH, Green J, Halsey J, Hildebrand JS, Jung KJ, Korda RJ, McLerran DF, Moore SC, O'Keeffe LM, Paige E, Ramond A, Reeves GK, Rolland B, Sacerdote C, Sattar N, Sofianopoulou E, Stevens J, Thun M, Ueshima H, Yang L, Yun YD, Willeit P, Banks E, Beral V, Chen Zh, Gapstur SM, Gunter MJ, Hartge P, Jee SH, Lam TH, Peto R, Potter JD, Willett WC, Thompson SG, Danesh J, Hu FB. Body-mass index and all-cause mortality: individual-participant-data meta-analysis of 239 prospective studies in four continents. Lancet. 2016 Aug 20;388(10046):776-86. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30175-1. Epub 2016 Jul 13. PMID: 27423262; PMCID: PMC4995441.



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