Fact Checked

A Normal BMI Doesn’t Mean You Are Actually Healthy

Samya Ghosal

Your BMI might be in the normal range, but if your lifestyle is not active and healthy, it will lead to problems over the course of time.

While BMI has been used as a universal tool for calculating the fitness and obesity of people, it does not tell the whole story. BMI is useful in predicting health risks of populations due to obesity, like predisposition to cancer and other chronic conditions (such as diabetes). But on an individual level health in general is more complex and dependent on the metabolism of the body.

Impact of metabolic health

For example, you may have a healthy BMI of below 25 and still have too much fat in your body. If the fat is primarily around your waist and abdomen, this is known as visceral fat and they are more active metabolically than fat stored around the hips and thighs. This can lead to an unhealthy metabolic state in the body. This can lead to reduced fitness, insulin resistance, chronic inflammations and diabetes to name a few conditions. Certain traits that point towards poor metabolic health are rising blood pressure, high blood sugar and waist size higher than recommended levels.

Are there any correct indicators

Since BMI doesn’t give the complete picture about body fat and its effects, then what does? Experts say the location of the fat plays an important role. Those with visceral fat (fat surrounding the organs) around their abdomen are at a greater risk of metabolism-related conditions. This body shape is also referred to as Apple shaped. When fat is deposited near the hips and thighs, also known as Pear shaped, then it doesn’t pose such health risks. Thus, we can see that it is not only the amount of body fat but also its location that matters. 

Waist hip ratio is one such indicator that makes it easy to identify the amount of fat and its location. This ratio is often used as a parameter for obesity and can be used as an indicator for developing serious health conditions. This ratio is achieved by dividing the measurement of the waist with the measurement of the hip. The normal ratio for women is under 0.8 and for men is under 0.9. If it exceeds 0.85 in women and 0.9 in men, then it is a definitive indicator of obesity.

Healthy practices for healthy metabolism

Even if your BMI is in the healthy range there are certain steps you can take to remain metabolically healthy-

  • Keep a track of your weight. If it is increasing then take steps to reduce it, as over the course of time it will add up.
  • Measure your waist and keep monitoring it for changes. If you find your waist size increasing then, take steps to reduce it make to your normal. This can mean altering your diet and taking up physical activities.
  • Adopt a healthy, nutritious diet complete with all the major nutrients, but also observe the portion sizes that you take.
  • Get some exercise and mix it up. You can mix up your cardio with resistance training and balance exercises which can keep you physically fit.

Determining the effects of body fat and categorizing them is a complex process and research is still being conducted around this topic. The scale not only varies with ethnicity, but is also under scrutiny for not being completely accurate on an individual basis. Your BMI might be in the normal range, but if your lifestyle is not active and healthy, it will lead to problems over the course of time. You can consult with top certified dietitians on the mfine app, who can provide tailor made diet plans and lifestyle changes according to your body needs. 

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