For the longest time, we’ve been told that weight and height are the most important measurements. Specifically, BMI (Body Mass Index) has been used to determine the health of people for years. BMI is calculated by taking a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the person’s height squared in meters. The number tells you your body mass, but nothing about your body composition (what your body is made of: fat, muscle, etc). A healthy BMI range is 18.5-24.9. What if you are a body builder with 5% body fat, and a lot of muscle mass? You are considered “obese” in terms of BMI, yet are physically very healthy. What if you are an elderly man or woman who has lost a significant amount of muscle weight and who is also inactive? You are considered “healthy” in terms of BMI, yet are physically unhealthy. We can see how the system is flawed. BMI is still an important measurement to have, but we need to fill in the blanks. This is why it is important to know our body composition and take into consideration all aspects of what “health” means.
There are many tools used to take body composition measurements. There are skin fold tests, scales with special fat percent readings, and underwater tanks, just to name a few. The problem is, these can have a lot of variance to them. For example, it may depend on how much water you drank that day or even the accuracy or efficiency of the person measuring you. Some effective, easy resources you can use are a flexible tape measure and a scale. Take your weight in the morning when you wake up. Calculate that against your height to get your BMI (use an online calculator tool or a nutritionist for resources). Next, take the tape measure and wrap it around your belly at the top of your hipbone or belly button. Breathe out and take the measurement. Take note of your measurements and keep track of them annually, or more often if desired. Waist circumference is an important measurement to take. It can tell you a lot about your fat and where it is stored without expensive equipment. The World Health Organization notes dangerous waist circumference as over 37 inches for men and over 31.5 inches for women. The greater the waist circumference, the greater the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and all-cause death.
After meeting with a doctor and a registered dietitian for your checkup and measurements, it will be time to make some changes for your health. A healthy diet and exercise plan is just what is needed. It is important to eat a healthy, well balanced diet and exercise a minimum of 150 minutes every week. The key is consistency in everything you do. In addition to cardio exercise, it is important to do weight lifting and resistance training in order to preserve your lean tissues, muscles, and bone mass. Something to note is that there aren’t any exercises known to “spot reduce” fat, everyone loses fat in different areas at different times.
Remember “healthy” means something different to everyone. When you feel good, are eating to nourish your body, and are moving your body, health is achievable at every size!
Yours in Health,
Bastyr University student intern