Healthy Weight Ranges

In the past it was pretty easy to find tables of recommended healthy body weights.  Not so much anymore.  Most of the experts want you calculate your body mass index, recommending the healthy BMI range as 18.5 to 24.9.  I just spent an hour putting together a healthy weight range based on BMIs.  Since I have many readers outside the U.S., I use both U.S. customary and metric numbers.

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company last published its ideal weight and height table in 1983.  The US Department of Agriculture abondoned its 1995 healthy weight table by the turn of the century recommending BMI calculation instead.  Of note is that the upper end of its weight ranges was a BMI of 25; the lower ends were all BMIs of 19. 

Body Mass Index (BMI) is your weight in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared (kg/m2).  A pound equals 2.2 kilograms. A pound equals about 454 grams (453.6 to be exact). An inch equals 2.54 centimeters.  There are 100 centimeters in one meter. Thus, a 5-foot, 4-inch woman (1.63 meters) weighing 200 pounds (91 kilograms) has a BMI of 34.2.  Perhaps you’re starting to understand why this weight standard isn’t too popular yet.

 To learn your own BMI but skip the math, use an online calculator.

 To see if your BMI is in the healthy range of 18.5 to 24.9, find your height in the table below, then look to the healhy weight ranges to the right.  Measure your height without shoes and weight without clothes.

Table of Healthy Weight Ranges Based On Body Mass Index: 18.5 to 24.9

       Height               Weight in lb        Weight in kg

5’0” or 152 cm             95 – 128             43.0 – 58.0

5’1” or 155 cm             98 – 132             44.4 – 59.8

5’2” or 157 cm           101 – 137            45.8 – 62.1

5’3” or 160 cm           105 – 141             47.6 – 63.9

5’4” or 163 cm           108 – 146             48.9 – 66.2

5’5” or 165 mc           111 – 150             50.3 – 68.0

5’6” or 168 cm           115 – 155             52.0 – 70.3

5’7” or 170 cm           118 – 160             53.5 – 72.5

5’8” or 173 cm           122 – 164             55.3 – 74.3

5’9” or 175 cm           125 – 169             51.7 – 76.6

5’10” or 178 cm         129 – 174             58.5 – 78.9

5’11” or 180 cm         133 – 179             60.3 – 81.8

6’0”  or 183 cm          137 – 184             62.1 – 83.4

6’1” or 185 cm           140 – 189              63.5 – 85.7

6’2” or 188 cm           144 – 195             65.3 – 88.4

6’3” or 191 cm           148 – 200             67.1 – 90.7

6’4” or 193 cm           152 – 205             68.9 – 92.9

BMIs between 25 and 29.9 designate “overweight” and accurately describe about 35 percent of the United States population.

A BMI of 30 or higher defines “obesity” and indicates high risk for poor health. About 30 percent of us are obese. At a BMI of 35 and above, incidence of death and disease increases sharply.

The BMI concept is helpful to researchers and obesity clinicians, but the number doesn’t mean much yet to the average person on the street and to many physicians. It should be used more widely. (I know, I know: it’s not perfect.  Do you have a better, cheap, widely applicable alternative?)  Know your BMI. If it’s under 25, any excess fat you carry is unlikely to affect your health and longevity; your efforts to lose weight would be purely cosmetic.

Steve Parker, M.D.

13 Comments

Filed under Overweight and Obesity

13 responses to “Healthy Weight Ranges

  1. Haggus

    “A pound equals 2.2 kilograms.” Err…a pound actually equals very close to 454 grams. A kilogram though, does way just slightly over 2.2 pounds.

  2. Richard A.

    Another measurement is the waist to height ratio. For males, it should be less than 0.5 (under 50%).

    • I appreciate the input, Richard A. Another one I like is the waist-hip ratio.

      The risk of heart and vascular disease is more closely associated with distribution of excess fat than with degree of obesity as measured by overall weight or body mass index. Waist-hip ratio (WHR) is a measure of abdominal or central obesity, the type of fat distribution associated with coronary artery disease. A high ratio indicates the android body habitus. To determine your waist-hip ratio:

      1. While standing, relax your stomach—don’t
      pull it in. Measure around your waist mid-
      way between the bottom of the rib cage and
      the top of your pelvis bone. Usually this is at
      the level of your belly button, or an inch
      higher. Don’t go above the rib cage. Keep the
      measuring tape horizontal to the ground and
      don’t compress your skin.
      2. Then measure around your hips at the
      widest part of your buttocks. Keep the tape
      horizontal to the ground and don’t compress
      your skin.
      3. Divide the waist by the hip measurement.
      The result is your waist-hip ratio.

      For example, if your waist is 44 inches (112 cm) and hips are 48 inches (122 cm): 44 divided by 48 is 0.92, which is your waist-hip ratio.

      Scientists haven’t yet determined the ideal WHR, but it is probably around 0.85 or less for women, and 0.95 or less for men. Ratios above 1.0 are clearly associated with risk of cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks. The higher the ratio, the higher the risk. Compared with body mass index, WHR is a much stronger predictor of coronary artery disease. Several of the other obesity-related illnesses are also correlated with WHR, but the relationship between WHR and cardiovascular disease is particularly strong.

      -Steve

  3. elisaannh

    Sigh. It’s depressing. It’s too much math and the net calculators are often incorrect. If I only watched the BMI number, it would take a very long time to see a change and that is not rewarding during a weight loss phase. I am also irritated to see that I selected a goal weight of 157 and the top is 155 on the chart which just makes it all seem too far away and impossible to achieve.

    • elisaannh, I know it’s frustrating. You’re likely familiar with the Realistic Weight concept, but I’ll mention it here for the benefit of others.

      A Realistic Weight goal is one that you have a reasonable expectation of achieving, accompanied by significant psychological or medical benefits. This standard is flexible. There is no weight chart to consult since your potential psychological or medical benefits are unique. These weights tend to be higher than the other benchmarks thus far reviewed.

      Many of the illnesses caused or aggravated by obesity are improved significantly by loss of only 5 or 10 percent of body weight, regardless of final body mass index.

      The Realistic Weight concept accepts that you can feel better, look better, and have fewer medical problems while falling far short of the healthy BMI of 18.5 to 24.9. The concept accepts that your body cannot always be shaped at will: much of your shape and fat distribution are genetically determined. For example, the transformation of a young girl into a woman is recognizable by an accumulation of fat in the right places, caused by genes beyond her control. If all your blood relatives have big buttocks, thighs, and legs, you will also, although you do have control over degree.

      It’s not realistic to expect a 40-year-old mother of three to look like a 17-year-old with no kids. It’s clearly not impossible, but you just don’t see it very often. Nor is there a need for it. The Realistic Weight concept also accounts for personal history and recognizes a point of diminishing returns, i.e., increasing effort with decreasing payoff.

      For example, consider a diabetic with high blood pressure, 5-foot, 10-inches tall (178 cm), weighing 300 pounds (136 kg) for the last 20 years. His BMI is 44.5. He loses weight down to 215 pounds (98 kg), feels great, looks much better, cured his diabetes, and was able to stop one of his blood pressure medicines with his doctor’s blessing. His BMI is now 31. But his body is starting to resist further weight loss. It’s an increasing struggle for him, and he’s not very close to his “ideal” healthy weight of 173 pounds or 79 kg (BMI 24.9). At 215 pounds (98 kg) he has gained most of the health and psychological benefits of weight loss, probably adding years to his life. 215 pounds (98 kg) isn’t perfect, but it’s good. He’s lost 85 pounds (39 kg) of fat, which is a major accomplishment. Rejoice and be happy! For many people, the Realistic Weight concept is helpful and valid, and prevents the discouragement felt when performance falls short of ideal. Let’s not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

      -Steve

  4. js290

    How about measuring something useful like blood sugar levels?

    http://www.phlaunt.com/diabetes/14045524.php

    • js290,
      Yeah, that’s a thought. Or measure hemoglobin a1c. But since it involves a finger prick or blood draw from a vein, you’ll have some people decline participation, whereas few object to getting weight and height measured.
      -Steve

  5. Richard A.

    Kids have a different healthy BMI based on age from adults.

    http://kidshealth.org/parent/growth/growth/bmi_charts.html

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