In today’s society, it’s a little hard not to be worried about your appearance and your weight. With standards set far too high to truly achieve, and the measure of beauty constantly changing, it’s hard not to get caught up in everything. Funny thing is, most consider beautiful to be thinner or athletic in figure, the historic “body goal” for women was to be plumper, symbolising wealth and food security. Instead of focusing on being “too skinny” or “too fat”, as a society we need to shift our focus not necessarily on gaining weight or losing it, but having healthy bodies. So if you’re trying to lose weight, instead of finding the best weight loss program, or going on a new diet plan, consider simply healthy eating or hitting the treadmill at the gym a few times a week!
For a long time, medical professionals have used BMI (Body Mass Index) to assess how healthy their patient’s bodies are overall and monitor development. Recently, it has been asked whether or not your BMI score is truly a reflection of your overall health.
Can that one number alone determine your health, or is it simply just that – a number?
What Is BMI?
BMI, or Body Mass Index, is a number that reflects the ratio of your weight to your height and illustrates how much body fat you carry.
How to Calculate Your BMI and What the Number Means
To calculate your BMI, simply divide your weight in kilograms by your height in meters. Then divide this answer by your height again. This number is your BMI, and it is rated as below:
- Less than 18.5, underweight
- 18.5-24.9, normal
- 25-29.9, overweight
- Greater than 30, obese
And the risks said to be associated with each BMI are as follows:
- 19-24, minimal
- 25-26, low
- 27-29, moderate
- 30-34, high
- 35-39, very high
- 40+, extremely high
Straight away, without any in-depth analysis required, you can see that there are two obvious flaws with this scale:
- There is no mention that to be seriously underweight, i.e. lower than 18.5 can be as dangerous to your health as being overweight. The Annals of Internal Medicine recently published a paper highlighting the fact that people on both extreme ends of the scale are more at risk of premature death than those in the middle.
- 27-29 is described as a moderate risk, yet 25+ means you are overweight, which medical professionals will tell you is putting your health at risk.
Why Isn’t BMI A Good Measure of Health?
BMI doesn’t take into account a person’s body type, or how much exercise they do. So by this measure, a body builder with minimal body fat could quite easily have a much higher BMI than someone with very little muscle tone but a high percentage of body fat, as muscle weighs more than fat.
A recent study carried out by Dr. William Leslie, the University of Manitoba’s professor of medicine and radiology found that bone density can also have an effect on your BMI score, but to have a denser bone structure in no way reflects bad health. Lesser bone density is linked to osteoporosis.
How Do You Know If Your BMI Is in The Safe Range?
When looking at the findings of the published paper, and Dr, Leslie’s study, it is hard to determine what is truly a safe BMI, especially when coupled with existing research on how being too far under or overweight can affect your health.
It can’t hurt to know your BMI, and if it is at an extreme at either end of the scale, it is worth putting the effort in to try and get it more towards the centre of the scale. However, you need to look at factors that the current BMI ratings don’t take into consideration such bone density and the amount of muscle your body has.
How Can You Determine a Healthy Weight?
Again, this about taking into account more than just a number on a sliding scale. Rather than focusing primarily on weight, focus on living a healthy lifestyle. Some things you can do to help keep yourself healthy are:
- Healthy Eating: If you eat a healthy diet such as lean protein, complex whole wheat carbs and lots of fruit and vegetables, you are setting the foundations for a healthy body with minimal fat. Try to avoid too much salt, refined sugar and processed foods.
- Exercise Regularly: Regular exercise is another important factor. You should ideally vary your workouts between resistance training, for example, weight lifting or exercises such as squats and cardio exercise, for example, running on a treadmill, or a high intensity workout class.
- Stop Smoking and Drink in Moderation: Stopping smoking and drinking no more than 1 unit of alcohol a day (women) and 2 units a day (men) will improve your health massively. Your body has to work overtime to remove all those chemicals where it should be concentrating on other things.
- Get Plenty of Sleep: Sleeping allows your body to repair itself and keeps your mental faculties in good working order. It is recommended you should have at least eight hours of sleep a night. This will also improve your concentration and help to reduce your cravings for sugar based foods.
These four things will contribute much better to a healthier mind and body, which is more productive in the long run than worrying about your BMI. Always consult your doctor before starting a weight gain or weight loss program and before starting a new exercise routine.
Sourced from: Time
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