Raj is the CEO and Co-founder of Styku, a 3D body scanning and body shape analysis system for health, fitness, and wellness professionals. He is also a physicist, with a background in extra-solar planetary astronomy and once worked in the Human Space Flight Program at NASA.
With obesity affecting over 35% of adults in the United States, the topic of body fat measurement has never been more apparent. However, the methodology for actually evaluating body fat is largely flawed, especially as it relates to BMI.
Body Mass Index (BMI) is the outdated yet still popular approach of determining body fat, based on your weight in relation to your height. Many recent studies, including this one, show that many people end up mislabeled as “unhealthy.” Body fat calculators, similarly, use formulas that leave room for many errors and false diagnoses.
These one-size-fits-all approaches result in a single number that will not accurately evaluate the status of your client’s overall health. Instead, these methods look at broad, overall trends across large groups of people that reveal an average result. Because they are not catered to individual needs, using this methodology will produce an inefficient assessment for your clients.
Here are ten reasons that demonstrate why BMI is bogus
- The BMI formula doesn’t make much sense. Body mass index computes body fat based on height and weight. However, scientifically these results don’t add up. It requires squaring your client’s height and even excludes waist size, which doesn't make any scientific sense for measuring body fat.
- The logic behind BMI is inherently flawed. The BMI divides all people into four categories and numbers. Because key factors are omitted from this approach, your client may be healthy, strong, and athletic but categorized incorrectly. Even some football players have been deemed “obese” by these standards.
- BMI was originally meant to measure overall trends in large groups of people. Created by a mathematician in the early 19th century, the creator of the BMI originally intended for it to gauge overall trends in a large population, not on an individual basis.
- It leaves out key factors. BMI doesn't reveal much about the actual composition of your body, such as how much fat versus muscle you have, as well as bone density.
- It doesn't indicate anything about your activity level. The BMI formula doesn’t take into consideration the day-to-day and athletic activity level that clients have, which is critical context that ends up being omitted.
- Neither BMI nor body fat calculators show where problem areas in the body are. They don't tell your client anything about their body shape (i.e. apple or pear?). Where fat is located on the body is a very important point of dialogue with your clients when determining health and potential issues. Distribution of body fat is a critical predictor for evaluating their health.
- They fail to provide a path forward. Without considering distribution of body fat, activity level, and other aforementioned factors, results from BMI and body fat calculators are terribly inaccurate when measuring clients’ fitness benchmarks to see if their health and fitness routine is improving their health.
- As professionals, it provides a limited perspective. Reliance on the quick convenience of BMI or a body fat calculator by doctors and health professionals discourages them from pursuing more accurate methods for evaluating obesity levels. This does not prioritize the wellbeing of their clients.
Measuring body fat is critical for success, however it’s important to use the right approach to evaluate where your client stands and how to help them improve. Fat mass and muscle mass must be distinguished in order to get your clients on the right track to optimal health.
Some gyms and health clubs assume the best they can get is with a DEXA scan or a dunk tank. Just because the financial investment is higher doesn’t mean that you’re paying for accuracy! More and more these entities throughout the country are discovering the system of 3D body scanning, which provides the most means of measuring body fat percentage for clients. With visualization tools and advanced software features, 3D body scanning is the best approach for measuring body fat that puts your clients on the path to optimal health.