No. Your body mass index, or BMI, is calculated using your height and weight to determine the amount of fat you have, as well as whether you are underweight, average, overweight, or obese.
Some medical professionals will consider your BMI in assessing your overall health and/or your risks for developing diseases. The categories are as follow:
- Underweight: BMI below 18.5
- Average: BMI between 18.5 and 24.9
- Overweight: BMI between 25 and 29.9
- Obese: BMI above 30
So, what do these numbers really mean? Is it possible to have a relatively high BMI and still be considered healthy? Yes, and here’s why:
Muscle mass vs. fat
The reality is that while BMI is a general measure of obesity, it is not always accurate. For example, if you have a muscular physique, your BMI calculation may show you have a significant amount of fat. Why? Muscle weighs more than fat; however, since BMI cannot identify the difference, those with high muscle mass often report having a high BMI despite leading an active lifestyle.
BMI also fails to consider your waist circumference, which is another indicator of potential health risks related to obesity. For females, a waist circumference less than 35 usually indicates a healthy weight, while for males, 40 inches does.
Body fat distribution
Similarly, BMI does not take into account where your body naturally stores fat – another measure of obesity. For example, if you store body fat on your hips and thighs, you are less likely to develop obesity-related diseases, regardless of BMI. Adversely, if you find your fat collects around your waist and belly, you are predisposed to the negative impacts of obesity, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Additionally, if you maintain an active lifestyle, you are already much healthier than someone who doesn’t, regardless of BMI. In fact, a 2007 study on male veterans with type 2 diabetes concluded that mortality was better determined by a person’s exercise capability rather than by his or her BMI.
The bottom line is that BMI is not the most accurate indicator of a healthy weight. True markers of healthy weight include your lifestyle and body composition, so it’s best to take those into account when gauging your overall health.