Limitations of BMI

by Lee

The year is 1980 and a large-framed Austrian takes a deep breath and steps onto the bathroom scales. Standing a shade over 6 foot 1, he watches the needle zoom to a massive 235 pounds. If the man-mountain were to calculate his Body Mass Index, his figure would measure an alarming 30.6 - a BMI of 30 or greater is classed in the Obesity category.

So who is the "obese" Austrian in our story?

He is 7-times Mr. Olympia, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Bogus BMI

Body Mass Index is used as a measure of overweight and obesity. Calculated from your height and weight, this figure is commonly employed to estimate body fat and gauge disease risks: in short, the higher your BMI, the more chances you have of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain cancers, etc.

However, the BMI is also fatally flawed.

For just as BMI can be used for most men and women, the measurement also has some limitations:

  • BMI underestimates body fat in older persons, thereby providing a lower figure.
  • BMI overestimates body fat in athletes and those people who have a muscular build, thereby providing a higher figure - our sobering tale of Arnold with his Body Mass Index of 30.6 clearly illustrates this.

And the moral of the story?

Figures are not always facts when even the 7-times Mr. Olympia can't trust his bathroom scales.

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