Ballpark figure or deep dive? Either way, it’s time to find out.
We at Million Steps see this as a baseline exercise. It’s crucial that we check-in with ourselves once or twice a year.
We’re also not really into controversies. We’re more into doing first. And then, fine-tuning. And we DEFINITELY dislike analysis paralysis.
We know there are questions as to the efficacy of using Body Mass Index (BMI). So we acknowledge them and will do two things.
First, we will go with the ballpark figure of a simple BMI Formula.
Second, if you prefer to explore a more robust approach, we will point you to a great resource from The British Heart Foundation.
Just remember. Whichever path you choose. Choose one. And do it.
Doing something is better than doing nothing, or even putting it off to another day because it is complicated or needs outside intervention.
You can use your BMI result as a starting point, as a simple baseline of where you stand on the index. You can also use it for further discussion with a health professional if needs be.
REMEMBER THIS: It’s only where you are now.
Some of you may be fine. Some may need some tweaks in life and physical activity.
The important thing to remember is you can make the change. You really can. You really REALLY can.
The Basic Theory: What is the body mass index (BMI)?
The body mass index (BMI) is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy.
What does a healthy weight mean?
It means just a very simple (ballpark) thing. Based on the evidence of all accumulated clinical knowledge at a population-wide level:
Healthy weight = a reduced risk of developing illnesses associated with being at an unhealthy weight.
And the operational words are “a reduced risk of developing ….”
Your BMI neither says whether you will or will not develop an illness. It merely is a risk indicator based on the accumulated knowledge at a population-wide level.
Just as “Smoking increases your risk of developing XXXX”, so does being at an “unhealthy weight increases the risk of XXXX”.
So, the theory is that we all want to reduce the risk of falling ill. That is it.
For most adults, an ideal BMI is in the 18.5 to 24.9 range.
For people of Asian/Black descent, 18.5 to 23 is a healthy BMI.
Why waist size also matters
Measuring your waist is a good way to check you’re not carrying too much fat around your stomach, which can raise your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. You can have a healthy BMI and still have excess tummy fat, meaning you’re still at risk of developing these conditions.
To measure your waist:
Find the bottom of your ribs and the top of your hips.
Wrap a tape measure around your waist midway between these points.
Breathe out naturally before taking the measurement. Source
The Ballpark Approach
We love two BMI Calculators.
- The BBC BMI Calculator as it includes waist size and can show you some interesting stats of where you stand in your area and the UK
- The NHS BMI Healthy Weight Calculator as it includes ethnicity and activity levels
For a quick and easy ballpark figure, have a try of those two.
The Deep Dive Approach
The British Heart Foundation has a great list of 12 ways in which to measure Body Fat.
It starts right from the most basic approach of using a weighing scale, all the way to DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry)
IMPORTANTLY: It explains the pros and cons of each method … and the costs.
You can explore the options here at the British Heart Foundation: What’s the best way to measure body fat?
Now that you have a variety of ways to find out what your BMI is, we do hope that you will choose one method that you feel is the best for you.
The important thing is this: You need to find out where you are before you know where you need to get to
So is BMI ok to use?
When the BBC launched its calculator above, thousands of readers went to check their BMI. So did I.
It was just a simple way of reminding myself where I stood in the ballpark. But I do remember thinking, “I wonder if the BBC will face a storm of criticism?”
They did. But the BBC responded with a fair and thoughtful article which is worth the read here, if only for one section:
“But does it work for everyone?”
No, not all.
And this provoked a few comments along these lines: “Why, in this day and age, are you using BMI to tell people they are overweight? It is an outdated method that does not take into consideration muscle and actual health! I am extremely fit and healthy with a low body fat percentage, yet your BMI tells me (and many more self-conscious girls) that I am overweight!”
There are some people who carry a lot of muscle and little fat, like bodybuilders, boxers and rugby players.
Muscle is much denser than fat so they may end up with a BMI that classes them as obese, despite the fact they may be fit and healthy.
Some professional rugby players will be classed as obese because of their high muscle mass — but this is rare
But this is thought to apply to fewer than 1% of the population. Most people aren’t extreme athletes”.
Tim Cole, professor of medical statistics, at University College London Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, said BMI was “still extremely relevant”.
“You don’t see many bodybuilders around but you do see lots of people with large waists. Many people get exercised about that wrongly.”Source
Whichever method you choose.
Don’t put it off.
You can always follow up, and deep dive into the details.
Because it’s just a ballpark baseline awareness exercise and better than not doing anything.
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