Editorials

Why BMI is inefficient and archaic

29 June 2021

By Fraser

To anyone who has entered their weight onto a Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator, don’t let any of it get to you. Whatever your fitness level, it is not a reliable source. BMI is a fundamentally flawed and archaic way of defining body weight – and should be ignored.

The major problem with BMI is that it is a one-note and shallow judgment of a person’s physique. All it does is take the bodyweight of a person, without awareness of the fat-to-muscle ratio, and render judgement on your health levels based on these factors.

The first issue, like I pointed out, is that weight seems to be defined by fat only. I’m a 24-year-old male who exercises five to six times a week. As well as this, I maintain a relatively healthy diet that is based around protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats as well as fruit and vegetables. But according to BMI, I am overweight because I weigh 90kg.

This is genuinely where serious problems start, from eating disorders to body dysmorphia. This over-simplified method of labelling people by one limiting factor can have profound consequences. All it is doing is perpetuating the notion that higher weight always leads to health issues.

The connotations of the results may give the impression that even athletes are unhealthy. But lean muscle mass can actually increase metabolism as well as offer resistance to health problems such as heart disease. This means an athlete with a high BMI can still be healthy.

Let’s have two people of the same weight and age yet in entirely different levels of health and body composition. One is a 100kg athlete with less than 20% body fat, the other is not. It is irrelevant to the crucial differences between these two entities. According to BMI, they are essentially the same person.

Despite the issues with BMI, the NHS website has a specific calculator prepared for it on their website. At the click of a few keys, you can find out your body mass index. It’s simple, free and private, therefore can be accessed by pretty much everyone.

However, when you consider that BMI is still being used by professionals despite all of this, it is clearly a foolish decision. Certain people I know of have applied to jobs such as police or firefighters, and despite being in terrific physical condition, were rejected because their BMI was considered too high.

While changes to diet, exercise, and lifestyle are necessary to tackling health and weight problems, it is ultimately always going to be a more complex issue than this.

The anatomy of everyone cannot be rectified by keying in a simple equation then having a computer launch a buzzword at you that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

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