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BMI, or body mass index, was created to provide a more accurate representation of whether a person’s weight could be considered healthy. Rather than looking at kilograms alone, it brings height into the mix, so that those of us on the taller or shorter side can review our weight fairly. But what is BMI, and what can it tell us about our bodies?

Read on to find out what is considered a healthy BMI, how it’s measured, and how we can take steps to maintain it.

What is BMI?

BMI stands for body mass index, and is a way of checking whether you have a healthy weight in relation to your height. It’s calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared.

For example:

  • If you weigh 57kg, and you are 1.62m tall, the calculation would be:

57 ÷ (1.62 x 1.62) = 21.7

  • Therefore, your BMI would be 21.7, which falls in the ‘healthy weight’ range.

Is my BMI healthy?

So, what is a healthy BMI range? Below are the BMI ranges for adults over 18, as outlined by the NHS.

  • Below 18.5 – Underweight range
  • Between 18.5 and 24.9 – Healthy range
  • Between 25 and 29.9 – Overweight range
  • Between 30 and 39.9 – Obese range

Just as being overweight can have an impact on your health, including an increased likelihood of having elevated cholesterol levels, being underweight is better avoided too. Either way, it’s best to discuss your individual circumstances with your doctor and ask their advice on how you can reach a healthy BMI.

What other factors besides a healthy BMI do I need to consider?

Although BMI is still considered a useful indicator of how healthy your weight is, it’s not completely foolproof. For example, an athlete or someone who performs strengthening exercises regularly may seem to have a high BMI because of their increased muscle density.

Therefore, it’s up to your GP or another healthcare professional to assess your lifestyle and diet as well as your BMI calculation in order to get the full picture.

How do I maintain a healthy BMI?

Now you know what is considered a healthy BMI, don’t panic if your score is outside of the desirable range. There are lots of small steps you can take to work towards a healthy BMI, including changes to what you eat, how you exercise, and your daily habits.

  • Have a healthy, balanced diet. This means making sure your diet has the right mix of fruit, vegetables, starchy foods, and proteins, and only small amounts of high fat or high sugar foods. Take a look at our chart to see what a balanced diet looks like.
  • Manage portion sizes. Only put as much on your plate as you really need to eat. It also helps to make sure that when you sit down to eat a meal, you’re able to pay it your full attention, stopping when you’re full.
  • Get active. Activities that increase your heart rate and breathing (known as aerobic exercise) for 150 minutes a week are recommended for maintaining a healthy weight. Why not start a new hobby, like swimming or salsa? You could also find a new way of getting to and from work, such as cycling and walking – the fresh air and light will also give your spirits a boost.
  • Cut down on alcohol. High in calories, low in nutritional value: it’s best to enjoy alcohol in moderation. Find out the recommended limit of alcohol consumption per week here.

You can learn more about how to look after your body and mind with the tips on staying fit and stressing less in our healthy lifestyle pages. Or sign up to our e-newsletter, and we’ll deliver advice on exercise, eating well, and heart health straight to your inbox once a month.