Body mass index (BMI) — what is it and how to calculate?

Every­one strives to keep their body in a nor­mal shape! And not only for aes­thet­ic rea­sons, but also for their state of health. When you are at a nor­mal weight, your risk of devel­op­ing car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, dia­betes, can­cer, and oth­er dis­eases is much low­er. Thanks to the body mass index (BMI), you can just deter­mine your opti­mal weight! What is it and where did it come from? How to cal­cu­late your weight? It’s all in the mate­r­i­al!

Body mass index (BMI) what is it and how to calculate?

What is body mass index?

Body mass index — BMI (Eng­lish body mass index (BMI)) — a val­ue due to which it is cal­cu­lat­ed how much a per­son­’s weight cor­re­sponds to his height. And with the help of the results, it is pos­si­ble to assess whether body weight cor­re­sponds to height: it is nor­mal, insuf­fi­cient or exces­sive (obe­si­ty). This makes it clear whether a per­son needs to under­go treat­ment, whether it is worth using spe­cial med­ica­tions, and so on.

What is body mass index?

Who developed the BMI? A bit of history

Cal­cu­lat­ing the body mass index was invent­ed in 1869 by the Bel­gian soci­ol­o­gist and sta­tis­ti­cian Adolf Quetelet. Thus, cal­cu­lat­ing body weight has become much eas­i­er than just esti­mat­ing “by eye” or ask­ing some­one else to esti­mate your weight.

Quetelet’s dis­cov­ery was known only to a nar­row cir­cle of peo­ple. The Quetelet index was not pop­u­lar even in the first half of the 20th cen­tu­ry.

This for­mu­la was giv­en new life by the Amer­i­can nutri­tion­ist Ankel Case, who pub­lished an arti­cle in the jour­nal Chron­ic Dis­eases in 1972, which called this cal­cu­la­tion for­mu­la — body mass index.

And since then, this term has become very pop­u­lar, and not only among doc­tors, but also among all those who mon­i­tor their health.

How­ev­er, it should be under­stood that BMI does not give a 100% result. Using a cal­cu­la­tor to cal­cu­late your num­ber is for indica­tive pur­pos­es only. For exam­ple, if you take an ath­lete who lit­er­al­ly lives in the gym and cal­cu­late his BMI, it will not be accu­rate, because mus­cle is heav­ier than fat.

It is curi­ous that the indi­ca­tor of the BMI norm in dif­fer­ent coun­tries dif­fers marked­ly from each oth­er. If we focus on the data of WHO indi­ca­tors, then the aver­age is con­sid­ered the norm. How­ev­er, at the same time, a per­son with a nor­mal BMI may look like he is over­weight.

Formula for calculating body mass index (BMI)

To find out your BMI num­ber, you need to divide your weight in kilo­grams by the square of your height in meters.


The for­mu­la does not take into account the gen­der and age of a per­son, despite the fact that the BMI of men is high­er than the BMI of women, and the BMI is high­er in mid­dle-aged peo­ple, and low­er in chil­dren and the elder­ly.

Table with BMI values

Inter­pre­ta­tion of BMI indi­ca­tors, in accor­dance with the rec­om­men­da­tions of the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion (WHO)

  • 16 or less Severe under­weight;
  • 16–18.5 Insuf­fi­cient (deficit) body weight;
  • 18.5–25 Nor­mal weight (ide­al);
  • 25–30 Over­weight (pre-obe­si­ty).

If you find it dif­fi­cult to cal­cu­late, use the table for cal­cu­lat­ing your BMI or a cal­cu­la­tor.

A BMI in women is con­sid­ered nor­mal if it is in the range from 20 to 22. In men, it should be from 23 to 25. Accord­ing to sta­tis­tics, peo­ple whose BMI ranges from 18 to 22 live longer on aver­age than those with who have weight prob­lems.

Formula for calculating body mass index

If a per­son has more than 25 or less than 16, then this indi­cates that you need to change your lifestyle! As we have already indi­cat­ed above, this does not swing ath­letes.

BMI does not take into account the ratio between lean body mass and body fat. In addi­tion, you should not use BMI for preg­nant women, the elder­ly and chil­dren. But, despite this, BMI is the cor­rect method, whether weight is a threat to the health of the body as a whole, to warn your­self against obe­si­ty or anorex­ia.

BMI is espe­cial­ly rel­e­vant in West­ern coun­tries, where the prob­lem of obe­si­ty has always been a hot issue. But, at the same time, mak­ing med­ical diag­noses based on BMI is also not cor­rect, because ini­tial­ly BMI was devel­oped as just a soci­o­log­i­cal study.

Body mass index helps only con­trol weight when try­ing out a new fit­ness pro­gram or diet.

It is gen­er­al­ly accept­ed that the aver­age BMI should be slight­ly below nor­mal in order for peo­ple to have some­thing to strive for. But there is anoth­er belief that if a per­son weighs much above the BMI norm, then this can lead to low self-esteem, depres­sion and oth­er dis­eases.

Con­trol your weight and make sure that it is nor­mal!

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The opin­ion of the edi­tors may not coin­cide with the opin­ion of the author of the arti­cle.

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