Does a Normal BMI Range Equal Good Health?

Does a Normal BMI Range Equal Good Health?

Most Americans are undertrained. According to the most recent data, adult obesity rates now exceed 35 percent in four states, 30 percent in 25 states. and are above 20 percent in all states. [1]

Based off these statistics alone, there is no real need to worry about the average soccer dad having too much muscle. But what about athletes? The outliers who have low bodyfat, plenty of muscle, and a higher scale-weight?

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BMI, or body mass index, is a method used to measure body fat based on your weight in relation to your height. It applies to most adult men and women aged 20 and over. For children aged 2 and over, BMI percentile is the best assessment of body fat.

I will explain why? And I will also explain its downfalls.

You can see the issues here. Let's say that you know two people that are both 5'7 and weigh 200lbs.

One has been weight training for 10 years and sports six-pack abs. The other has never lifted anything more than a beer, and sports man boobs and a belly that hangs below his private parts.

According to the body mass index, they would both have a BMI of 31.3. In other words, they would be OBESE! Would you call someone with six-pack abs obese? I didn't think so!

You can calculate your BMI here.

For the chart on how you rank on the BMI, see this. BMI Categories:
  • Underweight = <18.5
  • Normal weight = 18.5-24.9
  • Overweight = 25-29.9
  • Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater

I'm Actually a Big Fan of the BMI

But, even though I am one of those "obese" individuals despite having a bodyfat of around 6% bodyfat, I am actually a big fan of the BMI for the general population.

Here are the benefits and the negatives of the BMI, and why it's actually the best tool we have for large segments of the population.

BMI - The Bad

Normal Weight Obesity. That's right - people of normal weight, such as the sedentary or elderly, can have such little muscle that they can be normal weight but have too much fat. This means they can show up on BMI as normal weight but actually be unhealthy and face obesity risk factors due to their level of fat.

This can also not show the positive effects of starting an exercise program. If someone who starts training had low muscle mass, and now are gaining muscle and their weight even goes up a bit (see 'Newbie Gains'), it can actually show them getting worse based on their BMI!

The body is not a textbook. Bone density, bodyfat, hydration, lean mass? They are all a factor in bodyweight.

BMI - The Good

General Accuracy. Accurate measures for a large population.

With bodyfat, there is a huge margin of error with most inexpensive forms like caliper measurement. This is due to human error. Hydrostatic weighing requires a tub and equipment.

For BMI all you need is a tape measure and a scale. This helps to group people and identify risk factors over a large group.

For most people who are not trained athletes, height and weight are accurate enough. There are very few athletes in this world that would be hindered by a false BMI measurement. Hitting BMI is actually a GREAT measure of health for most 'average' people.

My Feelings on BMI

I have had my life insurance premiums labeled as "HIGH RISK". This was due to my BMI, despite having perfect bloodwork, no preexisting conditions, and healthy vital signs. The BMI has cost me money, so I should hate it, right?

Wrong. You cannot base your practices on the outliers.

Sure, for me and the other .000000001% of the population standing at 5'7 and weighing 240lbs at 6% bodyfat it is unfair, but that's just how it is. Also, carrying extra weight, regardless of if it is fat or muscle, is still a stressor on the body. So that argument can be made as well.

While the BMI calling me obese is silly, and sort of hilarious, it is what happens when you make benchmarks for people to qualify for things like health and life insurance. The outlier gets screwed, and that's unfortunate. But life isn't always fair. For a vast majority of the population, BMI got it right.

What is your BMI? Are you under 10% bodyfat but still considered obese? Test yours using the calculator mentioned earlier in this article and comment down below about your feelings on the BMI!
1) "Adult Obesity in the United States: The State of Obesity." The State of Obesity: Obesity Data Trends and Policy Analysis,
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