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What is considered to be a healthy BMI range in the UK?

The BMI is a calculation of body fat using someone's height and weight.

What Is the Healthy BMI Range in the UK? | Juniper

You're probably familiar with the body mass index (BMI) calculator and how it helps measure body fat based on weight and height. And, while it can be a handy tool at times, it is important to acknowledge that it also has its flaws.

For example, many elite athletes are considered to have a BMI that is overweight or obese due to having a high body weight due to higher lean body mass [1]. In reality, these athletes aren't overweight or obese but that's what the BMI data tells us.

So, why do we still use the BMI system? Well, while it doesn't relate to athletes particularly well, it can be a good gauge of body fat levels in the average person [2].

It's also important to note that your weight will fluctuate from day to day and that's completely normal. As a woman, your weight is influenced by a number of factors including your menstrual cycle and menopause. As a result, your BMI will change throughout your life and that's to be expected.

Given that there are risk factors for certain weight categories and as a result, an increased risk of health problems, it's good to have an understanding of what the clinical guidelines are and where you sit within these.

So, with this in mind, let's have a look at what is the healthy BMI range in the UK.

What is BMI and how is it calculated?

The BMI is a calculation of body fat using someone's height and weight. This is what defines weight categories, medically, in adults [3].

The formula for BMI is kilograms divided by metres squared. Kilograms refer to someone's weight and metres squared is someone's height. To be in the optimum weight category, the BMI range is 18.5 to 24.9. The categories are as follows:

  • Underweight: less than 18.5
  • Normal weight: in the range of 18.5–24.9
  • Overweight: in the range of 25–29.9
  • Obesity: 30 or greater

Using a BMI calculator for your body mass index is designed to present a guide to a healthy weight range — it isn't concrete, and the terms are strictly medical.

Why is BMI useful?

Assessing healthy weight with the BMI can help reduce or prevent health symptoms and conditions like cardiovascular disease [3]. As it is a measurement of weight in relation to height, it can gauge a weight goal and determine any potential health risks.

A healthy weight range for you might be completely different for someone else, so it is a relatively individual approach to weight management and helps to put your body into perspective.

The BMI is also an internationally recognised standard for a healthy weight range, so it's not just about what the Australian institute considers a healthy BMI range.

Why measure waist circumference?

Where weight gain occurs plays a role in your health and can be useful to determine possible health problems or risk factors. Measuring your waist circumference can screen for health risks such as heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes (a chronic disease).

Your waist circumference measurements can also be a good indicator of where the fat is in the body and where you may be carrying excess weight.

If you have a larger waist circumference, it might be an indication that there's a build-up of fat around your organs, which poses a high risk to your health [4].

What is the difference between overweight and obesity in BMI?

As shown in the BMI categories, there's a difference in the ranges to determine whether a person is overweight or obese. To be considered overweight, the BMI calculation is in the range of 25 to 29.9, whereas obesity is considered anything greater than 30. 

What is considered to be a healthy BMI range in the UK?

As denoted by the BMI category 'normal weight', this healthier weight range is anything from 18.5 to 24.9. We know, the term 'normal' doesn't sit well with us either, but medical terminology has a long way to go before it's 21st-century-friendly.

This is basically what a person should aim for based on the BMI calculation, but of course, there are limitations to this measurement and even those who are extremely fit, like athletes, don't often fall into this range.

What are the health risks of being overweight or obese?

Being overweight or obese can have severe health implications, which is why a weight guide is followed by medical professionals [7].

Carrying excess weight, or more specifically, fat, can lead to health issues such as:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Some cancers
  • Sleep apnea
  • Osteoarthritis
  • High blood pressure

Weight loss should be something you focus on for your health, first. There is no one-size-fits-all approach but losing weight with guidance from a health professional is recommended as losing too much weight also has risk factors.

What are the limitations of the BMI system?

The BMI system is not always an accurate measure of 'healthy weight'. Some people find this measure of weight to be quite reductive as it doesn't take factors into consideration like whether the weight recorded is muscle or body fat.

Similarly, the BMI calculator cannot present an accurate reading of a healthy weight for children who have not finished growing, elderly people who are losing muscle or pregnant women with ever-fluctuating body composition.

When using the BMI, health professionals should take in all relevant information that can affect your weight rather than solely focusing on the BMI categories.

With this in mind, it's best to see the BMI as a guide, while also taking in other extenuating circumstances that impact weight.

Approaching weight loss with modern medicine

Getting to a healthy weight for you can seem like a mammoth task — especially if you're doing it on your own. And sometimes, changes to your diet and exercise aren't enough on their own and it's totally understandable if you need a bit of support to reach your healthy weight.

Whether it's having medical guidance, one-to-one health tracking or medication to support digestion, or changing your relationship with food, you can stay focused and supported with Juniper's Weight Reset Programme.

Combining health coaching, one-on-one health tracking with a Juniper clinician and a breakthrough weight loss medication that helps to regulate your digestion and reduce your appetite, Juniper offers a holistic way to approach weight loss and improve your health. We prescribe Wegovy, a GLP-1 medication containing semaglutide.

Semaglutide is clinically proven to reduce your appetite and make you feel fuller for longer, while also reducing cravings by targeting the rewards centre in the brain.

Weight gain and body fat vary from person to person and it's not just about what you eat and how much you exercise, either. Genetics play a big role in your body composition and this is why we've created a programme that takes all of that into consideration, while also offering you personalised support on your health journey.