Body Mass Index (BMI) For Runners

If you’re running to lose weight and tone up, knowing your BMI is a good first step. Here’s how to calculate it.

Photo: William Iven

One of the many benefits of running is that it burns calories faster than a lot of other types of exercise, so if you want to lose weight, running could be a big part of your program. Before you draft a weight loss and exercise plan, though, you’ll want to collect a little personal data, including your height, weight and BMI.

What exactly is BMI? Body mass index is a calculation of fat, in relation to a person’s height and weight. While the formula is not a precise measurement of the amount of fat in the body, estimating BMI is simpler and cheaper than other diagnostic assessments. Determining your BMI can provide a fairly accurate picture of whether you weigh too much or too little. A high BMI may indicate a risk of certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers. A high BMI can also put stress on the heart, which may cause high blood pressure or gallstones. Other possible consequences of high BMI include back pain, osteoarthritis, excessive triglyceride and blood cholesterol levels, and low amounts of the healthy kind of cholesterol (HDL).

What’s a healthy BMI? Generally speaking, the goal is to maintain a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9. A BMI index of 30 or more means a person is obese, but those who discover they meet this definition should not be too discouraged. Dropping just a few pounds, by altering diet and exercising more, can have a dramatic effect on BMI. To estimate your BMI, use the following chart. Find your height in the left-hand column and your weight in the the top row. Then follow the two measurements to see where they intersect. This number is your BMI.  

Using a BMI Calculator

Another easy-to-use method of determining body mass index is a BMI calculator. Some calculators provide varying methods for men, women, children and seniors. Others score certain ethnicities differently, based on body builds, or they take diet into consideration. (A BMI calculator for people who consume low-fat or low-carbohydrate foods would be different than the one used for people with less healthy eating habits.) 

Use our calculator to estimate your BMI.

One Piece of the Puzzle

BMI has its critics, partly because it usually doesn’t take into account different body types. For instance, athletes and others who tone their muscles might have a high BMI even though they are physically fit, and people whose muscles have weakened (such as the elderly) could have a low BMI despite being out of shape. However, if you’re looking for a baseline from which to start a weight loss program, estimating your BMI can be a valuable piece of the big picture of your overall health.


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