Body mass index (BMI) is a measurement of body size relative to your height and weight. Measuring BMI can give a quick insight into if your weight can be considered underweight, healthy, overweight or obese. The higher your BMI number, the higher your risk for chronic diseases such as: heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
The BMI categories are as follows:
18.5 – 24.9 Normal Weight
25.0- 29.9 Overweight
To find out your BMI use our BMI Calculator.
Lowering your BMI classification to a healthy range can be beneficial for lowering your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
Weight loss can happen through many variations in diet, exercise or combination of the two.
The best way to lower your BMI is what you will stick with long term and sustains overall health long term.
Fad diets, severely restricting calories and taking supplements are not healthy long term solutions.
Changing your food intake to healthy, natural foods and incorporating different types of exercise can support healthy weight loss.
Limitations of BMI
BMI can help you determine your risk for some health conditions, but it is not the only indicator of health.
Waist circumference, boy fat percentage, blood sugar levels and blood lipid levels are examples of other important measurements.
Health should be looked at through a combination of tests and measurements.
BMI does not take into account if the extra weight is from fat or lean muscle. Some athletes are put into the BMI category as overweight or obese when they are not in fact over weight.
For the majority of the population, having a BMI considered overweight or obese means it could be beneficial to lose weight and shift BMI to a healthy range.
However, just because your BMI is considered in the healthy range, you’re not off the hook. According to Dr. Janiszewski (1), people who have a healthy BMI number can still have too high levels of body fat putting them at risk for some diseases.
Instead of just focusing on your weight or BMI number, focus on if your body fat levels are shifting and if you are establishing healthy habits.
A healthy lifestyle is just as or more important than your BMI number.
Best way to lower BMI: diet
A healthy weight loss diet can be considered to be filled with nutrient dense foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, lean proteins and heart healthy fats.
Cutting out sugars is one of the best things you can do for weight loss and trying to lower your BMI.
Following a food intake pattern similar to the Mediterranean diet has been associated with many health benefits such as lowering risk for cardiovascular disease and having anti-inflammatory benefits.
The Mediterranean diet focuses on eating a lot of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, olive oil and fatty fish. It is low in red meats and sweets.
This type of eating style is high in fiber and antioxidants which can be beneficial for helping to keep you feeling full and provide your body with important nutrients.
Best way to lower BMI: exercise
Any exercise can be beneficial even if weight loss is not a direct outcome. However, for the best way to lower your BMI, eating a healthy diet should be combined with an exercise program.
Adding in more movement in general throughout your day and limiting long periods of sitting can be beneficial for health.
There are benefits from moderate aerobic exercise, higher intensity intervals and resistance exercise for weight loss.
Aerobic exercise burns a high amount of calories, and exercising at lower to moderate intensities can help your body burn fat efficiently as a fuel.
It can also be well tolerated for any level of fitness from beginner to advance.
Doing higher intensity exercises allows you to get a big return on exercising for a shorter duration. High intensity intervals also burns high amount of energy, and metabolic rate can stay elevated hours after exercise (2).
Adding in resistance exercise for major muscle groups can help you retain muscle mass through weight loss.
Remember having a BMI in the healthy range is not the only indicator of health. You can still have an elevated level of body fat and still be in the healthy classification of BMI.
To help keep muscle mass and lose fat mass, add in resistance exercise to your workout routine. For more specific guidelines on what would be best for you for an exercise program and your medical history, speak with your health care team or an exercise specialist.
Best way to lower BMI: consistent changes you will stick with long term
In order to lower your BMI for the long haul, it’s important to make changes that will last so the weight will stay off.
Fad diets may help you lose weight fast, but they usually do not promote weight loss that lasts.
Shifting eating and exercise habits can be the best way to lower BMI. Remember, it’s not just about shifting a number and doing whatever it takes to get there. It’s about making healthy adjustments for your overall health.
BMI is one tool used to assess health, but it should be used in combination with many other tools.
Many weight loss experts suggest shifting your habits gradually and slowly to promote long term commitment. Add in more natural, fibrous foods like fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes to promote satiety while eating lower calorie foods.
Eating heart healthy sources of fat, like nuts and olive oil, can be beneficial for lowering inflammation associated with obesity.
Exercising is important for many health reasons, and doing a variety of moderate, vigorous intensity and resistance training can provide maximum benefit for boosting metabolism and preserving lean muscle mass.