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Posts Tagged ‘Body Mass Index’

Body Mass Index: What is it Good For? By Our September Student Pharmacist, Eric Oh.

A two-time consensus All-American at San Diego State University, Marshall Faulk, was selected by the Indianapolis Colts as the second overall pick in the 1994 NFL Draft. Playing professionally for the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, Faulk is one of only three NFL players (Marcus Allen and Tiki Barber being the others) to reach at least 10,000 rushing yards and 5,000 receiving yards. He is also the only one to amass 12,000 yards rushing and 6,000 yards receiving. Faulk was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

So would Marshall Faulk be considered fat or fit? Let’s take a look at his “BMI” to find out.

What is BMI?

We have all heard of it. BMI or Body Mass Index is a simple measure that uses your height and weight to give an estimate of your body volume and/or density. The bigger the Body Mass Index (BMI) value, the “rounder” you are. The smaller the BMI value, the “thinner” you are.

BMI is a simple equation that is used to assess how much an individual’s body weight departs from what is “normal” or desirable for a person of a particular height.

In fact, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration use BMI to advocate healthy weights.

Here is a chart to derive your BMI (click on the chart to enlarge it and make it easier to read):

As you can see from this chart, if someone has a BMI ≥30, they are considered to be “obese.” Two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. The rate of obesity has increased dramatically in the past 50 years.

Life insurance companies use BMI to determine insurance rates or even deny coverage because there is a strong correlation between obesity and the following morbidity factors:

  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • sleep apnea
  • certain types of cancer
  • high blood pressure
  • cancer
  • reduced life expectancy

There are other factors involved in the relationship between obesity and these morbidity factors.

Today, I would like to tell you about BMI and its usefulness and limitations in relation to health and longevity.

I am about 5’10” and 210 pounds (BMI = 30.1), which is about what many football running backs measure during their active years. Marshall Faulk also fits that stature. So yes, Marshall Faulk and I have the exact same body.

OOOHHH (Just kidding)!!

Even though, Marshall Faulk and I do NOT have the same body, we have the same BMI. Who else has a BMI around 30? Let’s look at a couple of world-class athletes.

Leisel Jones is a recently retired Australian Olympic gold medalist swimmer whose Olympic career spanned through four Olympics between 2000-2012. She is regarded as one of the greatest breastroke swimmers ever and won a silver medal in the 4×100 medley relay.

Sir Matthew Clive Pinsent (pictured below) is an English rower who won ten world championship gold medals and four consecutive Olympic gold medals. At 6’5” and 250 pounds, his BMI is also about 30.


Both sports require tremendous amounts of lung capacity, stamina, and strength. No one would consider either Leisel Jones or Sir Matthew Clive Pinsent to be NOT physically nor cardiovascularly fit even with their BMIs around 30.

So what is the big deal about being “overweight” or “obese”?

Let’s take a look at some football players.

The heaviest football players are offensive linemen and defensive backs. Linemen average about 300-350 pounds in weight, placing them well in the “obese category.”

Sumo wrestlers are clearly “fat.”

However, while Sumo wrestlers are actively competing, their blood tests show excellent levels of cholesterol, sugar, blood pressure, etc. (as is the case for the football linemen). Despite their big bellies, they have very little visceral fat (the fat around the organs), which is thought to be a risk for cardiovascular diseases.

Once they retire, Sumo wrestlers still eat the same carbohydrate-heavy diet. With their excess weight and non-viscera fat while NOT exercising, their health statistics dramatically change to dangerous levels.

The case is the same for the football lineman. More so than other positions, linemen suffer from the morbidity factors listed above and die at a younger age than the other team positions.

Let’s face it. Most of us do not exercise as much as these professional athletes no matter what we weigh. And that’s perfectly fine. It has been shown that moderate amounts of exercise, with no or little weight loss, gives big improvements in health.

For example, 150 minutes of exercise a week, plus a 2-5% reduction in weight, reduced obese people’s risk for diabetes by more than 50%.

So that would be 30 minutes of exercise, five times a week, and about 4-10 pounds of weight loss for someone like me, which is pretty feasible. Also, the aforementioned large athletes who exercise after retirement remain healthy.

Take Home Message:

What I would like for you remember from this post is that you can be overweight or obese, yet be physically healthy and fit and at no greater risk of heart disease or cancer than “normal” weight people. The key is being “metabolically fit,” meaning no high blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar, and exercising. One of the main problems of being overweight is the lack of exercise and a healthy diet associated with it. The heavier you are, the more difficult it is to exercise. It’s more difficult to stay motivated, there are cyclical effects of depression and “comfort foods,” and some people actually have a genetic predisposition to weight gain.

Whether it be media, or other forms of social pressure, many of us desire to look leaner. But the “ideal” body size, as portrayed by the media, is often unhealthy or unattainable. So let’s focus on exercise, not weight loss or body fat loss.

In many cases, attempts to diet to lose weight do not lead to sustained weight loss in the long term, leading to yo-yo dieting, which wreaks havoc on your body. Instead, I encourage you to exercise.

We can ALL be healthy and happy, at every size, through exercising.