A: The BMI formula is a statistical formula to measure a persons weight relative to their height. A renaissance man from Belgium named Adolphe Quetelet developed the formula in the early 1800s.
Simply put, the BMI formula is a persons total body weight in kilograms divided by their height in meters squared.
The BMI formula became popular as the obesity epidemic became apparent in places like the United States. It provided a simple and easy to calculate number to quantify the "fatness" of a person, and allow doctors and other health professionals to discuss weight related issues with their patients in an objective manner.
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According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the BMI formula has a fairly strong correlation to body fat percentages. However, the percentages vary by age, race, and sex. For example, if two people have the same body mass index, men tend to have a lower body fat percentage than women.
This is because the body mass index formula does not measure a person's fatness directly. Instead, for most people, it correlates to measures of body fat percentage.
However, the fact that the BMI formula does not directly measure body fat percentage means that you should not use it by itself to determine health risks. You should supplement the measure with body fat percentage to get a more complete picture of your health circumstances.
So, after you calculate your body mass index, how do you interpret the results? The following table breaks down your BMI formula result into standard categories:
BMI Formula Result
30.0 and Above
Though there are better ways to measure your body composition, the body mass index formula is perhaps the easiest to use initially.