BMI Might Not Offer Best Gauge Of Physical Fitness For Some

One of the things many people calculate when figuring out how to lose weight is their body mass index, but experts said a new calculation might be a better measure of obesity, especially when helping get children on track toward a healthy life.

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Patricia Miller took her son, Christopher, to the University of Wisconsin Sports Medicine Clinic after his doctor recommended a body composition test to get a better understanding of Christopher’s body.

During the clinic visit, Christopher moved past BMI and onto body composition, a new gauge in physical health. Rather than just comparing height and weight, body composition looks at mass, muscle and bone density.

“It made a huge impact. It stabilized the weight gain and (the doctor) was cautiously optimistic,” Patricia Miller said.

“Even though their body composition — their body mass — changes, their BMI doesn’t always change, and that’s particularly disappointing in kids,” said Randy Clark, of the UW Exercise Laboratory.

Clark said looking at body composition can give children like Christopher a better measure of their health. And Patricia Miller said that is helping Christopher look at his own lifestyle.

“He’s just like other kids. He wants to watch TV. He wants to play on the computer, and the bigger part is showing by example,” Patricia Miller said.

Health experts said they hope the new gauge will get people to look at their true body composition and lifestyles to fight the battle against obesity.

“I really encourage people to look at their true body composition value, keeping in mind that BMI is very rough and it may not give you the kind of information you need,” Clark said.

A body composition scanner at a clinic is one of the ways to learn one’s body composition.

Several home machines also claim to do the same thing, but doctors said the most accurate way to determine the breakdown of one’s body is by going to a clinic.

Experts said BMI is still a helpful tool in determining weight distribution and that testing for body composition factors in extra elements like muscle and body size to get a more accurate picture of overall fitness.