You have probably heard of BMI in the context of health and weight – especially in the last year or so. I however want to talk about some of the better alternatives to BMI. BMI stands for Body Mass Index, and it’s an equation that’s done to give you a rough indication of whether you are overweight, underweight, or so on.

If you’re a very muscular person, your BMI is going to imply you’re overweight, when usually that isn’t the case – it’s because you’ve got the dense muscle mass. Take a bodybuilder, for example, or rugby player. These men and women have hardly any bodyfat on them and yet would be classified as overweight or even obese according to BMI measurements. It’s not an accurate number, but that said, I’m not particularly keen on any number that you can apply to somebody’s body composition (which I think is a better way of describing things).

Body composition is how your body is composed of water, muscle, fat, and bone. For most people, we want a little bit more muscle, and in some cases, quite a bit less fat, but body composition is the right term.

What am I a fan of?

The Mirror

Look in the mirror. Be objective. Are you happy with what you see based on your own measurements, not some warped distortion of what you should look like that’s been propounded to you by the media, for example? Are you happy with how you feel? That’s probably the most critical subjective measure of all. Do you feel fit? Do you feel good? Do you feel happy based on your own personal standard?

The String Test

Then there is the simple string test to see if you are putting on weight. Grab a string to measure your height, fold that length in half and see if you can wrap it around your waist. If your string isn’t long enough to wrap around your entire waist you are more likely to develop health problems.

Functional Fitness

I’m really keen on is functional fitness. Can you do the things that you want to do? Can you climb the stairs in the time that you want to get up the stairs? Can you lift your shopping, lift your children, play with your children? If you can’t do any of those things, then your functional fitness is probably what you need to focus on.

Rather than obsessing about a number, focus on your functional fitness and focus on how you feel.


As a final measure, the thing that never lies is an item of clothing. A jumper isn’t going to expand to make you feel better or shrink to really irritate you, so having a piece of clothing that you want to get back into can also be a good measure, because these things don’t change – if it’s too baggy or too tight, it’s you that has changed. But focus primarily on how you feel.

This article first appeared in the February issue of SE22 Magazine.