When you’re first determining how healthy you are, in regards to your weight, you may come across a litany of numbers that don’t make a lot of sense. For example, BMI. Sure, you may have learned a bit about it in your high school health class, but what does it mean? How does it relate to your weight? Is it a number you need to worry about? 

We’ll try to answer these questions and more. That way, armed with information, you can approach your next diet or exercise plan more knowledgeable about your health and wellness. 

What Is BMI? 

BMI stands for “Body Mass Index.” It is the value that compares your weight to your height. Put another way, it helps you determine how much body fat you have on your body. Medical professionals can use your BMI to determine if you are at a healthy weight, underweight, or overweight.  

It’s worth noting that appropriate BMIs change with age. Teenagers, for example, operate on a different BMI scale than most adults. Why? Because teenagers are in the midst of growth spurts and will have different body compositions than adults who’ve settled into their metabolic rhythms. 

Let’s break things down further. What values represent a healthy weight? Typically speaking, a BMI between 18.5 and 25 kg/m² means that you have a healthy balance of fat to muscle in your body. BMIs between 25 and 29.9 kg/m² indicate that you’re overweight. A BMI that exceeds 30 kg/m² indicates that a person should be considered obese. 

BMI and Weight 

This is where the difference in the weight of fat and muscle comes into play. Consider this: two individuals get onto a scale. They are the same height and weight, but they don’t have the same body types. Why not? One of them works out five days a week, whereas the other lives a sedentary lifestyle.  

Even though these individuals weigh the same amount, one will have a higher BMI than the other due to their lifestyle. That’s how BMI works – it is not indicative of your weight, and neither are the labels (healthy, overweight, obese) that go with it. Instead, these terms reflect the amount of fat a person has on their body – fat that they may well be interested in removing. 

Determining Your BMI 

Most of the time, it’s your doctor who will be able to tell you your BMI. However, if you want to estimate your BMI on your own, you can. It requires some secondary tools, but take your time, and you’ll have a better idea of what your bodily ratio looks like. 

To get started, you should: 

  1. Place your scale on a flat surface and record your weight to the nearest pound. Do not wear shoes or heavy layers of clothing. 
  2. Stepping off of the scale, measure your height. 
  3. With these details at hand, you can use a BMI calculator like the one provided by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to see where on the BMI scale you fall. 

Lowering Your BMI 

If you’re concerned that your BMI is too high for your body type or age, you can talk to your doctor about the different ways you can work to lower it. Most of these methods require diet and exercise. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, try to work out at least three times a week for a minimum of thirty minutes.  

You can slowly integrate new types of exercise into your life to get your body moving. You may also want to consider limiting your access to foods that are high in sugar and fat.  

These small steps will help you start on a path towards a healthier lifestyle.