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Body Composition Test, BMI, Waist Circumference, Body Mass Index

Body Composition Test

Tue, 3 Nov 2009

Body Composition

Body Mass Index (BMI): BMI is a number that is based on a person's weight and height. It can be used to identify people at risk for some health problems. 1 Higher BMI values indicate greater weight per unit of height.

BMI is related to the risk of disease and death. The score is valid for both men and women, but it does have some limitations,

  • 1. It may overestimate body fat in athletes and others who have a muscular build, and
  • 2. It may underestimate body fat in older persons and others who have lost muscle mass.

Waist Circumference can serve as another indicator for some health risks for individuals who may have a BMI classification of normal or overweight (a BMI score between 18.5 and 29.9). A high waist circumference is associated with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, elevated blood lipids (fats like cholesterol and triglycerides), hypertension, and cardiovascular disease in patients with a BMI between 25 and 34.9. 2 Recording changes over time in waist circumference is important since it can change even when body weight remains the same.

1 More information available at http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi/; Accessed November 30, 2006.
2National Institutes of Health, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Obesity Education Initiative Guidelines on Overweight and Obesity Electronic Toolkit. Available on-line at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/e_txtbk/txgd/4142.htm Accessed: October 3, 2006.

BMI and Waist Circumference


  • Scale
  • Tape measure or a piece of string
  • Yardstick
  • Pencil



  • 1. With shoes off, measure your weight on a scale.
  • 2. Record this measurement.


  • 1. With shoes off, stand with your back to the wall, heels close together and as close as possible to the wall.
  • 2. Have your partner place the yardstick on top of your head such that it touches the wall and is parallel to the floor. Partner makes a small mark on the wall under the yardstick. Measure the distance from the floor to the mark (in feet and inches).
  • 3. Record this measurement.

Waist circumference:

  • 1. Stand upright and have your partner wrap the tape measure or a piece of string around your bare abdomen just above the hip bones (see diagram at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/e_txtbk/txgd/4142.htm). Pull the string or tape measure so it’s snug, but not compressing the skin. Keep the tape level.
  • 2. Your partner holds thumb and finger on the measuring tape or string where the two ends meet. If you use a piece of string, have a yard stick or other measuring device handy so you can measure the string.
  • 3. Record this measurement (in inches).

To find your BMI, use this chart.

How to improve BMI and Waist Circumference

You can improve your BMI and waist circumference by losing weight.

Whether you gain or lose weight depends on caloric balance. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, above usual activity done at home or work, most days (5+) of the week to reduce the risk of chronic disease. You can gain greater health benefits from doing more activity. To help manage your body weight and prevent gradual weight gain, 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity most days (5+) of the week is necessary. In order to sustain weight loss, 60-90 minutes of daily moderate-intensity activity may be necessary. For both weight maintenance and weight loss, it is important to keep food intake (calories) to a level that is equal to or less than the amount of calories you burn through daily activity.

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