Say ‘Hi’ to Your BMI (Body Mass Index)

woman on a medical weight scale

Obesity brings with it a roster of related health conditions, from cancer, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke, to gallbladder disease, mental illness, osteoarthritis, and type 2 diabetes — to name just a few. So it makes sense to try and maintain a healthy weight by eating right and exercising often. For adults, that means working up to working out five days a week for 30 minutes each; kids need 60 minutes of exercise daily.

Nothing brings fitness into focus more than the jolt of a high BMI (Body Mass Index) number. Many have been known to jump immediately onto a treadmill or stationary bike once their doctor (as if in slow motion) pronounces them “overweight,” or worse, “obese.” The reality is, a high BMI number is a wake-up call to better health.

First, measure your waist: Start by measuring your waist with a tape measure, or, have your doctor do the honors at your next office visit. Your waist size can help determine if you have too much fat around your abdomen. If you do, you may fall within a caution zone for a related health condition. If you’re a man whose waist measures more than 40 inches, or a woman whose waist measures more than 35 inches (non-pregnant), your doctor may tell you that you need to lose weight.

  1. Stand straight with a tape measure horizontally around your waist, just above the hip bone (one inch above the belly button).
  2. Keep tape snug (without squeezing skin).
  3. Measure after breathing out.

Next, check your BMI: The metric system is used to calculate BMI, based on individual height and weight. For ease of use, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website ( for guidelines, as well as for a BMI Calculator and BMI Index Chart to check numbers for your height and weight. Note: Adult BMI is read differently than BMI for kids and teens. That’s due to the amount of fat changes related to age and gender as children grow.

For adults (20 years old and older):

A BMI of less than 18.5 = underweight.

A BMI 18.5 to 24.9 = healthy weight.

A BMI 25.0 to 29.9 = overweight.

A BMI 30.0 and up = obese.

Remember: Neither BMI nor waist inches (alone or together) can totally assess disease risk, or your current health status. Only your doctor or a trained healthcare provider is equipped to do that, taking lifestyle and family history into account. But getting to know these numbers can point you in the right direction!

By Lisa Miceli Feliciano

Sources include:,

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