Ditch BMI Calculators And Try These Health Tests Instead

For decades, the Body Mass Index (BMI) has been the most widely used method of determining whether a person is at a healthy weight. Simply calculating weight divided by height can be helpful in gaining insight into a person’s health, but some research suggests that it doesn’t really paint the full picture.

According to NHS guidelines, a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is healthy – but it actually appears that a significant number of people classified as overweight by their BMI are healthy and vice versa.

“BMI is calculated based on a person’s height and weight and therefore does not take into account the amount of fat in relation to the muscles or whether body fat tends to be distributed around the waist”, explains Bridget Benelam of the British Nutrition Foundation.

A 2016 study published in the International Journal of Obesity and led by UCLA found that more than 54 million people in the United States have been incorrectly classified as “unhealthy” based on their BMI, when in reality they are “cardiometabolically” at. judging by other markers including cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure.

Conversely, about a quarter of people with a healthy BMI have poor cardiometabolic health. Focusing on BMI as the sole indicator of good health might also contribute to weight stigma.

“Although BMI is the gold standard for weight, it is a limited measure because it neglects key factors; age, gender and ethnicity can all have an impact on weight, ”says nutritionist Jenna Hope. “Plus, BMI doesn’t differentiate between fat mass and fat-free mass. Fat mass is a more important predictor of health than overall weight.

If BMI isn’t a completely accurate metric, what tests should you do instead? Well, measuring the waistline is just as important as stepping on the scale, according to a scientific statement published by the American Heart Association in the journal Circulation in 2021.

A middle-aged beer belly or spread could be a sign of visceral fatty tissue (VAT) – a dangerous kind of abdominal fat that coils around internal organs. Abdominal obesity can put a person at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease even if they are not overweight or obese based on their BMI. NHS guidelines say a waist measurement of 94cm (37 inches) or more for men and 80cm (31.5 inches) or more for women increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes , cancer and stroke, regardless of overall body mass.

Research from Loughborough University in 2017 found that people who are around their waist weight but have a normal BMI are at increased risk of death from any cause, compared to those who are obese but carry their weight elsewhere.

In addition to measuring waist circumference, there are tests that can be done easily at home that provide insight into your cardiovascular health, musculoskeletal strength, and overall good health. These are the health tests to try today.

Health tests to try at home

Waist size

Waist measurement is one way to assess whether a person is at risk for abdominal obesity. Measure your waistline with a tape measure. Find the point at the bottom of your ribs and at the top of your hips and take a measurement while exhaling naturally, without sucking in. According to NHS guidelines, you should try to lose weight if your waistline measures over 94cm (37 inches) for men and 80cm (31.5 inches) for women, regardless of your BMI.

Waist-to-hip ratio

Another way to gauge whether a person has a healthy amount of belly fat is through the waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). Measure your hip circumference by standing straight with your legs together and measuring around the widest part of your hips while exhaling naturally. To calculate your WHR, divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. According to the World Health Organization, a healthy WHR is 0.9 or less for men and 0.85 or less for women.

Standing and sitting position test

Passing the sit and rise test is associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality, according to data published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology in 2012. The test is simple: go from a standing position to a sitting position on the floor, then back up, without using your hands, arms or knees for support if possible. It only needs to be done once. In the original study of adults aged 51 to 80, those who failed this musculoskeletal strength test were almost seven times more likely to die within six years than those who could sit and get up without help.

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