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What is your BMI and why is it so important?

Your BMI, or Body Mass Index, is a measure using both weight and height to calculate a healthy weight for your height. 

Having an increased BMI exposes you to increased risk of cardiovascular complications including heart attacks and strokes. However your BMI is something that can be controlled through ‘lifestyle’ modification. What we really mean by that is… you can reduce your BMI and reduce your risk of adverse health events. 

By changing things such as reducing portion size, increasing physical activity, increasing water intake, as well as lowering other risk factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol. 

Keep in mind BMI doesn’t take into account age, body composition, or gender. There are also variations in BMI according to ethnicity. Generally speaking BMI normative value shoulder be lower for those of an Asian background, higher for those of Polynesian background, older adults and elite athletes. We say elite athletes because they have increased levels of muscle, which weighs more than fatty tissue. 

A great measure alongside this is weight circumference. An increased waist circumference is also related to an increase in chronic disease (e.g. type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, peripheral artery disease). The higher the waist circumference the higher the risk of chronic disease. (Waist circumference and BMI do not apply to children or pregnant women).

What should my BMI and waist circumference be?


Waist circumference:

Image: Australia Government, Department of Health. Jan2021.

Top tips for a beginner:

  1. Track the amount of physical activity you are doing
  2. Keep a food diary for a few days per week and self-evaluate if there were any meals or foods that could have been substituted
  3. Come up with a plan for exercise and stick to a routine, just like showering everyday, you want to get active daily too.
  4. Put your phone down and spend more time outside. 
  5. Set small targets and give yourself a realistic timeframe to get there by. A weight loss of 0.5kg a week is a good place to start. 

In a nutshell your BMI and waist circumference are important measures related to obesity. When you have an increased BMI and/or waist circumference you are exposed to increased risk of health complications. Research shows that exercise alongside a balanced diet reduces both of these. Even if you’re starting from no exercise, doing movement such as 15 minutes walking once per day is going to assist in losing weight. (A little bit of something is better than a lot of nothing!)

Written by Liz Spiteri (Accredited Exercise Physiologist)