4 Reasons BMI Doesn’t Matter

For as many as 20 percent of Americans, BMI may be an inaccurate snapshot of their body composition and overall health. We need to stop caring about it. BMI has been around for hundreds of years, and it is time we moved past it in favor of more precise measures of health. Unfamiliar with the formula for Body Mass Index? Here it is:

(weight in pounds) divided by (height in inches, squared), all multiplied by 703

If you’re math-savvy, you may wonder what practical purpose there is for the height to be squared. There is no scientific reason for the height to be squared in this equation. Shockingly, the mathematician that created the equation over 200 years ago simply squared the height because it suited his data better. It is absolute non-science with no functional basis, yet we still use it to this day. Here are 4 other reasons that you shouldn’t care about BMI.

4 Reasons BMI Doesn't Work

It ignores waist size. Waist size has been shown to be a highly accurate indicator of obesity. It’s also as simple as BMI, if not more simple, to calculate. If your waist is wider than your hips, you are likely obese and at a higher risk for diseases like diabetes. If waist size goes above 35 inches (women) or 40 inches (men), the risk increases greatly. This is science. This is clear, logical and understandable. BMI absolutely does not take the (highly accurate) measure of waist size in relation to obesity into consideration whatsoever.

It does not apply universally. An obese person will always have a high BMI, but a higher BMI doesn’t necessarily indicate a higher level of fatness. The reverse goes for those with low BMIs. The equation simply does not work for every body type. For instance, BMI does not take athleticism into account. Muscle density, when contributing to a large part of a person’s weight, throws the entire index off kilter. Muscle dense people are often considered at-risk and overweight when their height and weight are inputted into the equation. In this way, BMI makes highly fit people appear unfit and unhealthy on paper. This has especially negative consequences when health insurance companies use BMI to determine your risk level and pay rate. BMI is completely unfair and impractical for use on anyone with any sort of strength because the data is often misleading.

It gives the illusion that the line between healthy, obese or underweight is as thin and immutable as a decimal point. When you gain three pounds and move from a BMI of 24.9 to 25, that doesn’t mean you are suddenly overweight. It really depends on the rest of your body’s composition. If you are very dense and muscular, the number may just represent an increase in muscle mass. If you are highly sedentary, you may have already been a little overweight before you hit 25. Heck, sometimes people are completely healthy yet quite petite, but they are not ‘underweight,’ as the BMI chart would have you believe. The numbers mean nothing. They are not the deciding factor of your overall health. Health is a varied spectrum; it has no defined boundaries.

We have more reliable methods. Skin calipers and a tape measure for your waist are both incredibly cheap and reliable indicators of health. But, if you want to get really technical, there is also hydrostatic weighing, bioelectric impedance sale, air displacement plethysmography and dual x-ray absorbtiometry. From affordable and easy to incredibly complex, we have so many ways to determine body composition without relying on the outdated body mass index. There is no reason to continue to cling to it.

If you’ve been disappointed by the number indicated by your BMI, don’t fret too much. Use more reliable techniques to determine your body composition and, in all aspects of health, stop focusing so much on the numbers. Health is about how you look and feel, not pounds and decimal points.

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387 comments

Gino C
Gabriel Cabout a month ago

tyfs

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Gino C
Gabriel Cabout a month ago

tyfs

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Crystal G
Crystal G1 years ago

Smaller*

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Crystal G
Crystal G1 years ago

My bmi regards me as obese. I have gotten bigger but, my waist is small than my hips and my chest has gotten enormous. This article makes me feel a bit better than the doctor's office does. I can still still exercise quite decently.

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Christine J
Christine J2 years ago

Waist measurement is much easier. And looking in the mirror of course.

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Leong S
Leong S2 years ago

tks

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Jennifer F
Jennifer F2 years ago

I just went for my 6 month physical and my BMI stills shows me as overweight! Absolutely NOT!

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for sharing.

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

LZSMTR4H

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Jennifer F
Jennifer F2 years ago

This is an excellent article!

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