The BMI is Still BS

I now weigh 197 pounds. This means my BMI (Body Mass Index) is now 24.9. For the first time in over a decade, I am no longer Overweight.

BMI Formula for Adults:

BMI = ( Weight in Pounds / ( Height in inches ) x ( Height in inches ) ) x 703

BMI = ( Weight in Pounds / ( Height in inches ^ 2) ) x 703

BMI Chart:

  • < 18.5 Underweight
  • 18.5 – 24.9 Normal
  • 25.0 – 29.9 Overweight
  • 30.0 + Obese

Actually, with rounding, I am one cashew away from returning to Overweight.

The example I always cite to dismiss the BMI is Mike Tyson. At his fighting peak, he was considered obese by the BMI scale. The BMI scale treats muscle no differently than fat. It is an over-hyped metric for measuring leanness.

One of the movies getting press today is X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Hugh Jackman is my height (6′ 2 .5) and weighs 210 pounds. Everyone is interested in finding out how he got in such great shape. He is Overweight by BMI standards with a BMI of 26.6.

How should one measure leanness? I used to believe in body fat tests, but they vary too much by the method and who is administering the test. I like the Frankie Method. There is a good trainer at my former gym named Frankie. His metric in a single question. Can you see your abs? If no, then you are too fat. Gotta love New York Frankie.

UPDATE (5/10/2009): Updated formula per Jim’s comment.


Add yours

  1. I agree with you. The BMI calculation is simplistic and does not take (among other things) frame size and ethnicity into consideration and seems to be inaccurate more often than not. For example, with my body type the upper end of the normal range stated is too high.

  2. Funny you should mention this, because I was just looking up my BMI the other day out of curiosity. The site I went to was wise enough to point out that BMI is not accurate for muscular people or older people who have lost muscle–and anyone clever enough to figure out why will realize that the entire scale is inaccurate.

    Turns out I’m in the same boat as you: just a stones throw away from overweight, but honestly in much better shape than many at my BMI (and in worse shape than others). I like the Frankie Method, and I definitely have work to do, but I think there’s a need for a good yard stick to measure progress towards the goal. Sadly, body composition is a tricky thing to measure with modern tools.

  3. Hey MAS, you wrote the equation as:

    BMI = ( Weight in Pounds / ( Height in inches ) x ( Height in inches ) ) x 703

    I think technically it should be:

    BMI = ( Weight in Pounds / ( Height in inches x Height in inches ) x 703

    Or even better:

    BMI = ( Weight in Pounds / ( Height in inches ^ 2) ) x 703

    Otherwise, if you use proper order of operation on the original equation, the 2 hights cancel each other out and you and up with Weight x 703 (which of course is way too much).

    Anyway, I have to hold you to a higher standard since you are a developer… 🙂

  4. Jim – Thanks. I made the update.

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