Body measurements Health Calculators

Body Mass Index (BMI)

BMI Calculator – Body Mass Index

The BMI calculator is a useful tool that measures whether you are overweight, underweight, or just right. Your weight alone is not enough to tell, as a tall, skinny man may easily weigh more than a short but rotund woman. The body mass index, or BMI, overcomes this problem by finding a ratio of your weight to your height, and returning a single number. This number will fit into a category on the scale of BMI ranges, which are defined as underweight, normal, overweight, and obese.

BMI is a measurement of the body’s mass that takes into account not just the weight of a person, but also their height. The acronym BMI stands for Body Mass Index and it is very easy to calculate on your own, though it’s even easier if you use our BMI calculator for kids. If you insist on doing it on your own, here is the BMI formula:

BMI = weight / height²

where both weight and height should be in SI units (i.e.: kg and m). This then makes kg/m² the units of BMI. This is not the only units it is possible to use, but are the most widespread, even in the USA. This is due to these units being used by the World Health Organization (WHO) for setting the limits and acceptable ranges of BMI.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. A high BMI can be an indicator of high body fatness. BMI can be used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems but it is not diagnostic of the body fatness or health of an individual.

How is BMI used?

BMI can be a screening tool, but it does not diagnose the body fatness or health of an individual. To determine if BMI is a health risk, a healthcare provider performs further assessments. Such assessments include skinfold thickness measurements, evaluations of diet, physical activity, and family history.

What are the BMI trends for adults in the United States?

The prevalence of adult BMI greater than or equal to 30 kg/m2 (obese status) has greatly increased since the 1970s. Recently, however, this trend has leveled off, except for older women. Obesity has continued to increase in adult women who are age 60 years and older.

Why is BMI used to measure overweight and obesity?

Because calculation requires only height and weight, BMI is an inexpensive and easy tool.

What are other ways to assess excess body fatness besides BMI?

Other methods to measure body fatness include skinfold thickness measurements (with calipers), underwater weighing, bioelectrical impedance, dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), and isotope dilution. However, these methods are not always readily available, and they are either expensive or need to be conducted by highly trained personnel. Furthermore, many of these methods can be difficult to standardize across observers or machines, complicating comparisons across studies and time periods.

How is BMI calculated?

BMI is calculated the same way for both adults and children. The calculation is based on the following formulas:
Measurement Units Formula and Calculation
Kilograms and meters (or centimeters) Formula: weight (kg) / [height (m)]2

With the metric system, the formula for BMI is weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. Because height is commonly measured in centimeters, divide height in centimeters by 100 to obtain height in meters.

Example: Weight = 68 kg, Height = 165 cm (1.65 m)
Calculation: 68 ÷ (1.65)2 = 24.98

Pounds and inches Formula: weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703

Calculate BMI by dividing weight in pounds (lbs) by height in inches (in) squared and multiplying by a conversion factor of 703.

Example: Weight = 150 lbs, Height = 5’5″ (65″)
Calculation: [150 ÷ (65)2] x 703 = 24.96

How is BMI interpreted for adults?

For adults 20 years old and older, BMI is interpreted using standard weight status categories. These categories are the same for men and women of all body types and ages.

The standard weight status categories associated with BMI ranges for adults are shown in the following table.

The standard weight status categories associated with BMI ranges for adults are shown in the following table.
BMI Weight Status
Below 18.5 Underweight
18.5 – 24.9 Normal or Healthy Weight
25.0 – 29.9 Overweight
30.0 and Above Obese

For example, here are the weight ranges, the corresponding BMI ranges, and the weight status categories for a person who is 5′ 9″.

For example, here are the weight ranges, the corresponding BMI ranges, and the weight status categories for a person who is 5′ 9″.
Height Weight Range BMI Weight Status
5′ 9″ 124 lbs or less Below 18.5 Underweight
125 lbs to 168 lbs 18.5 to 24.9 Normal or Healthy Weight
169 lbs to 202 lbs 25.0 to 29.9 Overweight
203 lbs or more 30 or higher Obese

For children and teens, the interpretation of BMI depends upon age and sex.

Is BMI interpreted the same way for children and teens as it is for adults?

BMI is interpreted differently for children and teens, even though it is calculated using the same formula as adult BMI. Children and teen’s BMI need to be age and sex-specific because the amount of body fat changes with age and the amount of body fat differs between girls and boys. The CDC BMI-for-age growth charts take into account these differences and visually show BMI as a percentile ranking. These percentiles were determined using representative data of the U.S. population of 2- to 19-year-olds that was collected in various surveys from 1963-65 to 1988-9411.

Obesity among 2- to 19-year-olds is defined as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile of children of the same age and sex in this 1963 to 1994 reference population. For example, a 10-year-old boy of average height (56 inches) who weighs 102 pounds would have a BMI of 22.9 kg/m2. This would place the boy in the 95th percentile for BMI – meaning that his BMI is greater than that of 95% of similarly aged boys in this reference population – and he would be considered to have obesity.

How good is BMI as an indicator of body fatness?

The correlation between the BMI and body fatness is fairly strong, but even if two people have the same BMI, their level of body fatness may differ12.

In general,

  • At the same BMI, women tend to have more body fat than men.
  • At the same BMI, Blacks have less body fat than do Whites13,14, and Asians have more body fat than do Whites15.
  • At the same BMI, older people, on average, tend to have more body fat than younger adults.
  • At the same BMI, athletes have less body fat than do non-athletes.

The accuracy of BMI as an indicator of body fatness also appears to be higher in persons with higher levels of BMI and body fatness. While, a person with a very high BMI (e.g., 35 kg/m2) is very likely to have high body fat, a relatively high BMI can be the results of either high body fat or high lean body mass (muscle and bone). A trained healthcare provider should perform appropriate health assessments to evaluate an individual’s health status and risks.

If an athlete or other person with a lot of muscle has a BMI over 25, is that person still considered to be overweight?

According to the BMI weight status categories, anyone with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 would be classified as overweight and anyone with a BMI over 30 would be classified as obese.

However, athletes may have a high BMI because of increased muscularity rather than increased body fatness. In general, a person who has a high BMI is likely to have body fatness and would be considered to be overweight or obese, but this may not apply to athletes. A trained healthcare provider should perform appropriate health assessments to evaluate an individual’s health status and risks.

What are the health consequences of obesity for adults?

People who have obesity are at increased risk for many diseases and health conditions, including the following:

  • All-causes of death (mortality)
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides (dyslipidemia)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis (a breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint)
  • Sleep apnea and breathing problems
  • Chronic inflammation and increased oxidative stress
  • Some cancers (endometrial, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder, and liver)
  • Low quality of life
  • Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders
  • Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning

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