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Monday, April 23, 2012

BMI - An Athletes Enemy

Currently, BMI is used by millions of people to determine whether one is underweight, overweight, obese, or normal. For the average person, BMI may be of some benefit but for athletes, it can lead to confusion causing problems emotionally, physically, and mentally. This is because BMI only takes one's height, body weight, age, and gender into consideration when classifying whether someone is underweight or overweight. In most cases, BMI produces unreliable and misleading information which can lead to improper lifestyle habits(under/over eating, over exertion, etc.).

Athletes in particular, receive extremely unreliable data from BMI for the following reasons:

Exercise increases one's mineral/bone density, amount of muscle mass, amount of water retention in the muscle cells, amount of glycogen and creatine phosphate in the muscles, and the distribution of fat mass. Because of this, BMI may classify a top athlete, weighing over 200 pounds at 6% body fat, as being obese. BMI does not take exercise habits, genetics, body fat percentage, frame size etc. into consideration.

Too often, fitness/medical professionals use BMI to assess client's body classifications, making it an unprofessional and potentially harmful practice. Just how can BMI be harmful to an athlete's health? Consider the following:

If an amateur bodybuilder weighing 180 pounds went to see his doctor, and the doctor quickly calculated his BMI and concluded that he is obese and needs to lose at least 20 pounds to be considered lean. This amateur bodybuilder may find it hard to question such authority and actually believe that he is obese thus significantly reducing Caloric intake, while increasing physical activity to unsustainable levels. Most athletes will discard it as simply being ridiculous and false but there are still a few that could develop eating disorders and unhealthy lifestyle habits.

Health and fitness professionals who do not use more advanced body composition methods, should reevaluate their career choice. Many people trust these people as if they know everything and do not ask enough questions. Such habits result in malpractice and ignorance leading to a number of health issues that could have been prevented otherwise. So remember, it's good to question authority, especially when in doubt.

For those who exercise on a weekly basis, BMI is an unreliable body classification predictor. Seek out more advanced methods including near-infrared interactance, bioelectrical impedance analysis, skin fold calipers, anthropometric measures, hydrodensitometry, air displacement plethysmography, hydrometry, and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Even the average person should avoid using the BMI to classify whether they are underweight, overweight, or obese, because BMI still presents a high margin of error.

Bart Waldon, ISSA Master Trainer, is the fitness director for and he invites you to use the world's most advanced online personal training program with his guidance and support.

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