Body Fat Percentage vs Body Mass Index (BMI)?
What are the differences between the two and which one is a more accurate measurement of my health?
Both body fat and BMI measurements are indicators of your overall health, and there is use for both of them at different times.
Body Fat Percentage: Measuring your body fat generally is used with pinch calipers, a scale, a BodPod, or a Dexa Scan (the last two are the most accurate). Measuring your body fat is a more accurate measurement of your health than BMI because it’s a measurement of your body, as opposed to an approximation. Here is a simple chart for what a healthy body fat percentage looks like:
Description Women Men
Essential Fat 10-13% 2-5%
Athletes 14-20% 6-12%
Fitness 21-24% 13-16%
Average 25-30% 17-21%
Overweight 31-39% 22-29%
Obese 40% + 30% +
Body Mass Index: Measuring your body mass index (BMI) is generally used with a calculator — it is nothing more than taking your body weight and multiplying by your height. Your answer may be anywhere between 17-40+. The limitation with this is that BMI is that it doesn’t take into account your muscle. For example, your BMI could reveal that you’re overweight if you’re stronger than the general population. Below is a simple chart for what a healthy BMI looks like:
- Underweight = <18.5
- Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
- Overweight = 25–29.9
- Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater
Both body fat percentage and body mass index are measurements of your health. But your BMI has obvious limitations as it approximates your health based on averages of the population.
I’m an example of this. When I last used the BodPod at BYU, I was 12% body fat — yet my BMI score says that I’m just shy of 30.
So I’m considered an “Athlete” on one scale while “Obese” on the other…
If you’re questioning which one to take seriously, use body fat percentage.