What does BMI say and how to calculate it?

It takes approx. 4 minutes to read this article

Are you struggling with excess weight or maybe you just want to know if your weight is appropriate for your height? Then you need to calculate your BMI. We suggest how to do it.

Body Mass Index – what is it? That is the full English name of the abbreviation BMI. It is nothing else but the body mass index. And even more precisely; it is a coefficient, which is obtained by dividing the value of the body weight (our weight) given in kilograms by the square of height (our height) given in meters. The history of the origin of the term BMI and its definition dates back to the 19th century. At that time Belgian sociologist and mathematician Adolphe Queteleta tried to describe the shape, posture of an average person by referring to his body mass index.

Today, BMI is most often calculated by dieticians who want to best select a diet for their patients who are struggling with obesity, which may result in, for example, diabetes, or the other way round – deficiency in body mass, manifested for example by such disorders as anorexia or bulimia. BMI is also often calculated for professional athletes, especially before preparing for competitions, to choose the right set of exercises and diet.

What does BMI actually tell us?

BMI can tell us quite a lot about our health. Especially if its standards are significantly under or overstated. BMI significantly exceeding the norms adopted by the WHO indicates a potential risk of developing certain modern civilization diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis or ischemic heart disease – which are the result of untreated obesity, especially clinical obesity.

How to calculate BMI?

The formula for calculating BMI is not complicated at all. As we mentioned above, it is to divide the value of our body weight, by our height squared. To illustrate an example, let’s calculate the BMI of a woman who is 1.7 tall and weighs 60 kg. Her coefficient is 20.76, which means that her weight is normal. What are the normal ranges? It is accepted (this is the classification given by the World Health Organization, WHO) that the different ranges of BMI values mean:

  • less than 16 – starvation;
  • 16 – 16.99 – emaciation;
  • 17 – 18.49 – underweight;
  • 18.5 – 24.99 – normal;
  • 25 – 29.99 – overweight;
  • 30 – 34.99 – stage I obesity;
  • 35 – 39.99 – grade II obesity, or clinical obesity;
  • over 40 – extreme obesity.

Other BMI norms also apply when calculating BMI in children or adolescents. Therefore, when calculating BMI, we must remember about several important issues. Namely, that it is the simplest form of body mass to height ratio reference and does not take into account such aspects as age, gender or musculature (muscles weigh, do not forget). Therefore, if, for example, a fairly slim woman calculates that she is overweight according to BMI, she doesn’t need to aim for weight reduction, simply that her muscles weigh more (and so the scale shows more pounds)

It is best to consult a doctor or nutritionist, because we ourselves will not always interpret our BMI correctly. It is worth knowing that fat weighs much less than muscle. What is more, the content of particular tissues in the body changes with age and depends on gender

Do not compare your BMI with others

Comparing your own BMI with others is not good. Because two people who have the same height and weight can differ in their body type. As we mentioned earlier, fat is lighter than muscle. Therefore, one woman who has visible “flanks” and does not engage in regular physical activity, at a height of 170, may weigh the same as a woman who puts great effort into sculpting her figure, as evidenced, for example, by her beautifully outlined leg or abdominal muscles


Main photo: Dragana Gordic/

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