mum and daughter doing yoga

BMI: What is it and how does it affect life insurance?

When it comes to reviewing your overall health in regard to your weight and height, BMI is the most common measurement used around the world. Often utilised by medical professionals to understand risks, illustrate potential health issues, and determine the likelihood of developing additional illnesses, BMI is used every day in the wellness and medical fields. Much like any other medical measurement, BMI isn’t exhaustive – but it provides the foundation for understanding your overall health in an easy-to-follow formula.

Read on for our full guide of BMI, from what the measurement is to how it’s calculated, and how it can be used across various professions and industries:

What is BMI?

BMI, short for Body Mass Index, is a scientific formula that results in a specific score. This score provides an indicator of a person’s health and risk based on a calculation of their height and their weight. Typically, BMI scores put you under four different categories:

  • Underweight
  • Normal Weight
  • Overweight
  • Obese

In some cases, particularly in a medical setting, a BMI scale may also include categories for ‘seriously underweight’ and ‘morbidly obese’. While those medical terms may sound worrying, they’re simply a quick and easy way for anyone to understand how their weight can lead to higher health risks. BMI is often used alongside other measures, such as resting heart rate, to get a full picture of someone’s health.

How do you calculate your BMI?

BMI is a relatively straightforward formula, which means it is easy to calculate at home. To create your BMI calculation, you’ll first need to know your current weight in pounds (lbs) and your height in inches.

Once you have the information, you will want to multiply your weight by 703, and your height should be multiplied by itself. For example:

Jenny’s weight is 177lbs, and her height is 68 inches.

To calculate her weight, the following multiplication is used:

177 x 703 = 124,431

To calculate her height, this multiplication is used:

68 x 68 = 4,624

The calculation for Jenny’s weight is then divided by the calculation for Jenny’s height:

124,431 / 4,624 = 26.9

The result is a BMI of 26.9, which places Jenny in the overweight category on the BMI scale.

If you’re not so into the maths side of BMI, the NHS and a range of other websites offer free online calculators to get an accurate figure for your BMI in seconds. Once you know your BMI number, you can determine the category you fall into.

BMI categories are defined depending on the final number you receive upon calculation. These numbers are then categorised based on that number:

  • Less than 18.5: underweight
  • Between 18.5-24.9: normal
  • Between 25-29.9: overweight
  • Between than 30 and 39.9: obese
  • It’s important to remember that BMI is just a number, and various factors can influence whether a higher or lower BMI is unhealthy or healthy for you. Exercise, muscle, diet and even your gender can play a role in what your BMI score ends up being. This is why BMI is rarely used alone as a measure of health and is instead used alongside other lifestyle and medical evidence to achieve an overall idea of someone’s health.

    How can changes to your diet affect your BMI?

    As you might expect, eating a healthy diet or eating at a calorie deficit can result in your BMI being reduced. As your height is generally static, your weight is the only influence you can have on your BMI. If you lose weight, your BMI goes down. If you gain weight, your BMI goes up. A healthy lifestyle and average portion sizes can help ensure your BMI is maintained over time, though most people’s weight tends to fluctuate over the years.

    How can exercise affect BMI?

    Exercise can have a direct impact on BMI in the same way your diet can. Athletes and individuals who are fit are more likely to have a low BMI than sedentary people. However, it is worth noting that BMI doesn’t know the difference between muscle and fat. Bodybuilders, or people with extremely high muscle and lower fat content in their bodies, may be classified as overweight on BMI scales instead of underweight or normal weight.

    Other factors that affect your BMI

    As mentioned above, BMI doesn’t distinguish what’s inside your body – only your body's overall weight in relation to your height. Ethnicity, age, and gender all have an impact on what your BMI is. For example, studies show that each gender has different distributions of body fat and some health conditions can also affect your BMI, especially if they have an impact on your weight. 

    Who uses BMI?

    BMI is used across a range of different fields and for a range of purposes. Medical professionals may use BMI to understand the risks that a person may face when undergoing medical treatment or surgery. Nutritionists and diet companies often use BMI to measure whether someone is a healthy weight or not, using BMI as a goal to aspire towards. Life insurance agents also use BMI to understand the health of a person at a glance, as this valuable information can be used to figure out a profile for your potential risks.

    Life insurance brokers will check your BMI when figuring out a quote for your life insurance as your BMI may affect your life insurance cost, or even your eligibility, if you have conditions related to being obese such as type 2 diabetes. In addition to your BMI, a life insurance company will also examine every other part of your health for an overall picture of how healthy you are, and how much of a risk you are in general.

    Get a free quote for life insurance today

    If you’re looking for a reliable, professional life insurance company to suit your needs, Busy bee Life Insurance might be the best choice for you. Get in touch with our friendly life insurance team today to determine whether we’d be the right fit for your needs. We’d be more than happy to talk you through the process and discuss the options we have available. For a free quote, drop us a line now.