The standard of fitness around the US is the measure of BMI or body mass index. What is BMI you ask. Well, a BMI is simply calculated on weight and height. Seems simply right? Yet, a BMI score is so outdated that is a misguided health measurement.
No, I am not a doctor but I feel very strongly about this! Yes, we have an overweight epidemic on our hands in the US and its needs to be addressed. But we need a better mechanism.
Do you know that muscle “weighs” more than fat? Muscle is dense and full of tightly packed fibers while fat is a blog of basically air holes. Don’t get me wrong a pound of fat is equal to a pound of muscle in mass but a pound of fat is approximately 3 times as large as a pound of muscle. It has been shown that as you lose weight you gain more muscle. Muscle is what makes you look fit and trim. So why would the standard of fitness not take that into account?
I work at a local hospital and one our health insurance measures is BMI. To qualify for a credit we need to be within the normal range of BMI. Very few people fall within the BMI normal range. For example, I am a bit overweight (that’s what 2 kids in 2 years do to you) but I am also very active and have a lot of muscle mass because I have played sports since I was little. If you factored in my weight and height, I would be considered morbidly obese. Morbidly obese? Seriously! I can tell you that I am not morbidly obese, I am active and mostly fit. So why should that be the standard?
Another example is a local program that bases the help that it provides health/fitness coaching to obese local kids. In order to gauge their fitness they work with the kids to get their BMI into a normal range. No other metric really matters to them. I hear this and it makes me sad. Sure, they encourage more activity from the kids but when it comes down to it you want the kids to stop gaining muscle mass to lower their BMI.
So, is there a solution? Simply moving away from BMI as a sole fitness measurement. Should we still use it? Yes, I think we should, but a modified version that takes into account muscle/fat ratios with new normal ranges. It would be a whole new healthy standard for everyone and a better incentive for the US to overcome its obesity epidemic and live a healthier lifestyle?
What do you think? Should we update the BMI standard? Let me know in the comments.