Waist size or BMI? When it comes to getting fit, many people overlook waist measurements in favor of trying to gauge current health with BMI (Body Mass Index). However, this measurement is far from perfect. In fact, the more you get in shape, the less accurate it becomes. Does this mean you should ignore BMI? No, but it does mean that simply tracking BMI won’t provide a complete picture of your health. While both measurements are easy to take at home, waist measurement is the overall best option.
Why you should measure waist size
The circumference of your waist is not the same as the waist size on your favorite pair of pants; in fact, it is likely 2 inches greater or more. Here’s a great graphic on how to measure your waist size (.pdf) from the International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk of Université Laval in Quebec City, Canada.
Even if you already know your BMI, measuring the circumference of your waist can help fill in the gaps of the BMI system. Body Mass Index, for example, does not differentiate between muscle mass and fat mass. As a result, a particularly fit person can have a BMI that erroneously places them in the “overweight” section.
Since fat is often stored in the waist/gut area, especially for men, measuring a waist can show more info on how much fat is present.
The larger your waist size, the higher your risk for many of the same conditions as a high BMI. Moreover, a waist size greater than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women is one of the factors that determines whether you have metabolic syndrome.
What is BMI?
Body Mass Index (BMI) estimates a person’s level of body fat. It is a simple formula using weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. Don’t worry! You can substitute pounds and inches with a slightly modified formula, or you can really make it easy by using the simple BMI Calculator created by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
A high BMI can be an indicator of too much body fat and thus an increased risk for:
Again, though, due to how BMI looks only at height and weight, it can be fooled by how much muscle may be present, assuming it is fat instead. This means that anyone in good shape, especially when undergoing resistance training, will receive a high BMI despite lacking excess body fat.
Body Mass Index can be a helpful starting point when getting in shape, but it becomes increasingly flawed as you progress.
Tracking vs. Measuring
Simply knowing what your waist size and BMI are isn’t really enough to get healthy. The biggest benefit of learning this info stems from using it as a starting point. You can tell where you’re at now and where you want to be. Setting goals is an important part of sticking to a health plan. One of the benefits of a program like Olumia Life is keeping track of this information over time. Real health comes from habits, not just how healthy you are today.
Tracking your BMI and waist size over time will help you stay motivated and engaged in your own health.
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