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Myths About the Body Mass Index

By Sara Butler

The body mass index (BMI) is supposed to function as a tool to help you gauge your health. It’s based on your weight and your height, but it may not be the window into your health that its creators had hoped it to be. Here are some of the myths about the body mass index you need to know about!

Myth No. 1: If You Have a Low BMI You’re Healthy

There’s no question that excess weight can put you at a higher risk for chronic health conditions such as high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. So, you’d think if you had a low BMI indicating you had a lower amount of excess weight that you’d be good to go, right? Well, not really.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have found that there’s no correlation between a higher BMI and health issues such as high blood sugar or high blood pressure. Many people in the “obese” category of the BMI have healthy numbers, while many with a “normal” BMI have higher blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. This may be, in part, because the BMI doesn’t take into account muscle mass. Muscle weighs more than fat, so a higher BMI may not always indicate that you have excess weight. One of the failings of the BMI system!

Myth No. 2: Exercise and Eating Right Will Lower Your BMI

As previously mentioned muscle weighs more than fat. So, if you exercise regularly and eat healthily, it doesn’t guarantee your BMI will fall into the “normal” category. Being healthy and having an active lifestyle isn’t defined by what the numbers on the scale read. People of different body sizes can be healthy, but that’s unfortunately not something that has been embraced by the culture as a whole. Even people who eat right and engage in healthy activities can still be “overweight,” but that doesn’t mean they’re unhealthy.

Myth No. 3: The BMI is an Excellent Measure of Health

This one is probably pretty obviously false at this point, but you should know that the BMI isn’t a great measure of health for everyone. Some experts actually think weight isn’t a great measure of health at all. When you focus only on the number on your scale then you may be missing the bigger picture of your health. The real focus should be on healthy habits such as what you eat and how much you exercise. 

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