Are you confused about what body mass index (BMI) means as it relates to body fat and weight loss? Many people are. Body mass index is just one tool to use when you are looking at your health. Scientists use BMI as a research tool to make objective comparisons as to how fat you are.
Even if you are skinny, you can have excess body fat. A body mass index table will not tell you where you are fat. You could also be normal weight obese.
Here are 3 Facts about BMI, Body Fat and Weight Loss:
1. Body mass index uses your height and body weight to measure your fatness. This method has some limitations because it doesn’t consider your body type (slim, muscular, etc.). A person with a BMI of 25 or above is considered overweight and a BMI over 30 is considered obese.
A fit person with high muscle mass will tend to have a high BMI which suggests that the person is overfat. This person would actually be fit and healthy with low risk for fat-related diseases.
2. Even though you might use BMI as a starting point, a person’s level of fatness is best measured using a direct method. Two methods used are under-water weighing and skinfold measurements. Under-water weighing is not readily available to most people. Having a skinfold body fat test with calipers done by a fitness professional is convenient and reasonably accurate.
Regular exercise, low body fat and increased muscle mass are all factors that should outweigh any health risks suggested by a higher BMI.
You should be concerned with burning total fat and shrinking your waist size. Doing so will reduce your risk of dying from diseases like cancer and heart disease. Researchers from the American Cancer Society warns us about the deadly risks of having too much belly fat.
3. Always remember: IT IS ABOUT YOUR HEALTH AND NOT JUST WEIGHT LOSS!
Eric J. Jacobs, PHD, American Cancer Society strategic director, and his colleagues found that people with very large waists (47 inches or larger in men, 42 inches or larger in women) had approximately twice the risk of death compared to those with the smallest waists (35 inches in men, 30 inches in women) during the study period.
And, this is the interesting part about the study: it didn’t matter if the person was normal weight, overweight or obese (according to body mass index).
“We found a pattern showing that expanding waist size was linked to a greater risk of dying regardless of body weight,” said Jacobs. “Similarly, people with the smallest waist sizes had the lowest risk. The take home message here is watch your waist size regardless of your weight.”
Here are total body fat percentage levels which are more specific (based on body locations):
Necessary Body Fat: Women 10-13%, Men 2-5%
Athletes: Women 14-20%, Men 6-13%
Fit: Women 21-24%, Men 14-17%
Acceptable: Women 25-31%, Men 18-25%
Unhealthy: Women 32%+, Men 26%+
Regular strength training, low body fat and increased muscle mass are all factors that should outweigh any health risks suggested by a higher BMI.
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