“BMI” stands for “Body Mass Index.” It is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of his or her height in meters. The main purpose of BMI is to approximate body fat.
BMI is widely regarded in the medical community as a simple and fairly accurate indicator of obesity. It is more accurate than weight alone because it takes into account both height and weight. A taller person would be expected to have more weight than a shorter person because the taller person’s body is bigger.
Other tests, however, are more accurate than BMI is on its own. A body composition analysis, for instance, shows the body's precise composition, including how much fat is in the body.
As is the case with many measurements, properly interpreting a person’s BMI requires a certain level of expertise. The figure is generally useful when trying to diagnose obesity, but there are some considerations that must be taken into account. For instance, results should be interpreted differently for children and adults, and they should also be interpreted slightly differently for men and women. Additionally, athletes who are in excellent physical condition may have abnormal results because of their increased muscle mass.
Because interpreting a person’s BMI is nuanced, anyone who truly wants to understand his or her BMI should consult a doctor. A doctor can take a person’s BMI, general body habitus, and unique circumstances into consideration in order to evaluate his or her weight, but doctors who perform formal body composition analyses offer a more thorough and objective evaluation of a person’s weight.
A body composition analysis is a measurement of a person’s major tissue types - fat mass, lean mass, and water mass - reported in pounds (or kilograms) and in the percentage of total body weight. This can be accomplished in several different ways, but the most practical method is by the use of a bio-impedance scale. The most accurate types of these scales simply require the person to stand barefoot on a platform for a few seconds.
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