Why does the acronym BMI cast fear into the sturdiest of souls? In the alphabet soup of daily living, from CEO to LOL, we all make use of abbreviations. Body Mass Index, or BMI, was devised by Belgian astronomer and mathematician Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet in the 1830s and is used to quantify a person's shape by dividing weight in kilograms by height in meters squared.

These days BMI is typically used to measure whether a person is overweight. Employee Health Promotion (EHP) even uses the number to help understand the health of our campus. The real question for most of us though, is whether or not BMI is truly an accurate measurement. Accuracy is relative to the intended purpose and use of the data. If EHP used BMI data as a sole indicator for obesity then accuracy might be an issue, but BMI is only one form of biometric testing that we use for department and university-wide campaigns.

The EHP team routinely uses BMI in conjunction with height, weight, body fat percentage, and waist circumference when evaluating health. This combination gives individuals a starting point to use as they work toward an improved level of wellness.

Is BMI a perfect system of measurement? It is certainly flawed, and can vary based on muscle mass or water retention. However, all measurements have flaws. When BMI is used in conjunction with other modes of data collection, it becomes a useful tool to identify the journey towards improved personal fitness and wellness.

If you are fearless and interested in knowing your BMI and other biometric measurements, contact EHP at 272-4460 for more information.

Story by Health Education Consultant Tracey L. Brigg
Division of Human Resources, Employee Health Promotion