Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated from a person's weight and height. BMI is a fairly reliable indicator of body fatness for most people. BMI does not measure body fat directly, but research has shown that BMI correlates to direct measures of body fat, such as underwater weighing and dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA).1, 2 BMI can be considered an alternative for direct measures of body fat. Additionally, BMI is an inexpensive and easy-to-perform method of screening for weight categories that may lead to health problems.
BMI is used as a screening tool to identify possible weight problems. However, BMI is not a diagnostic tool. For example, a person may have a high BMI. However, to determine if excess weight is a health risk, a healthcare provider would need to perform further assessments. These assessments might include skinfold thickness measurements, evaluations of diet, physical activity, family history, and other appropriate health screenings.
Click here to learn about BMI for children and teens
Click here to use the Centers for Disease Control BMI Percentile Calculator for Child and Teen
Click here to use the Children’s BMI Tool for Schools
Click here to learn about BMI for adults
Click here to use the National Heart Lung & Blood Institute Adult BMI Calculator