three woman's bodies different in color, shape and weight

Understanding Body Mass Index (BMI) Screening: Can You Do It at Home?

body mass index formulas

A person’s body mass index (BMI) is one of the best ways to determine how healthy and “in shape” someone is. According to the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC), a person’s BMI is how much they weigh compared to their height. In many cases, someone with a high BMI is overweight due to excess fat, and a high BMI indicates potential health problems.

BMI is quickly becoming the gold standard in determining if someone is overweight, underweight, or just the right weight. While it isn’t foolproof, and there are times when it’s incorrect, it’s essential to know and understand your BMI. Typically, the only way to do this was to go to a doctor’s office and have a medical professional administer a series of tests. However, you can now get a BMI screening at home. 

What is BMI?

BMI stands for Body Mass Index and helps to determine your health status based on how much you way versus how tall you are. BMI is one of the best and easiest ways to tell if you’re overweight, underweight, obese, or in a healthy weight bracket for your height. BMI screening aims to determine how much body fat you have, which is important because excess fat can lead to several major health problems.

While BMI screening is a valuable medical tool, it isn’t foolproof. There are certain instances when someone weighs more than the recommended amount for their height, but it’s because they have excess muscle.

three woman's bodies different in color, shape and weight

Additionally, it’s also possible for someone to have higher bone density, making them heavier than other people of a similar height.

BMI Categories

The CDC has established seven distinct BMI categories that will help determine your weight and health status. Which category you fall into will depend on your total weight in relation to your height.

  • Normal: Normal means you have a BMI score of 18.5 to less than 25.
  • Underweight: Being underweight means that you have a BMI score of less than 18.5.
  • Overweight: Being overweight means having a BMI score higher than 25 but less than 30.
  • Obese: Obese means you have a BMI score that’s higher than 30.
  • Class I Obesity: If your BMI score is between 30 and 35, it’s considered Class I obesity.
  • Class II Obesity: If your BMI score is between 35 and 40, it’s considered Class II obesity.
  • Class III Obesity: If your BMI score exceeds 40, it’s considered Class III obesity.

You can determine your score using a BMI calculator or the CDC-recommended BMI Index Chart. You can also go to a doctor and have them measure your BMI. While this is more comprehensive and accurate, it also takes longer and is more expensive. 

Why is BMI Screening Important? 

BMI screening is essential at all ages to determine if you’re obese or at risk of becoming obese. Although it’s not fun to discuss, obesity is a leading health problem in the United States. According to Harvard University, nearly 70% of people in the United States are overweight.

Of that 70%, roughly one-third are considered obese. Additionally, the United States spends more than $170 billion each year to help people who are obese.

On the other end of the spectrum, nearly 2% of people in the US are considered underweight. While the health risks associated with being underweight differ from those of being overweight, they’re no less dangerous.

By considering these facts and knowing the specific health risks associated with low or high BMI, you will better understand why BMI screening is so important.

fat and skinny girls tied together with a measuring tape

Conditions Associated With High BMI

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Other heart problems and heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • An elevated heart rate
  • Depression
  • Sleep apnea
  • Gallstones
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Certain forms of cancer

Diseases Associated With Low BMI 

  • Anemia
  • Malnutrition
  • Infertility
  • Osteoporosis
  • Hypothermia
  • A weak immune system
  • Weak muscles

Can You Do BMI Screening at Home?

As you can see, BMI screening to understand your weight in relation to your height is extremely important. For that reason, medical experts have found ways for people to measure their own BMI without even going to a doctor’s office.

How to Do BMI Screening at Home on Your Own

To do at-home BMI screening, you’ll need a calculator, a scale, and a way to measure your height if you don’t already know your height. Once you have those tools and information, here’s what you need to do.

  • Use the scale to calculate your weight in pounds.
  • Multiply that number by 703.
  • Take that number and divide it by your height in inches.
  • Divide that number again by your height in inches.
  • The number you get is your BMI score.
  • Compare that number to the CDC guidelines above to determine your BMI category.

Advantages of DIY BMI Screening

  • Fast & Easy
  • Free
  • It will give you a basic understanding of your health related to your weight and height

Disadvantages of DIY BMI Screening

  • Not Comprehensive
  • There’s a chance you’ll make a mistake
  • You may need to schedule a doctor’s appointment to discuss the results.

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy BMI

Because of the many health problems associated with low or high BMI, staying within the normal range is essential. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you accomplish that goal.

Make Dietary Changes 

Diet plays a massive role in how much you weigh. You should eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other healthy foods to maintain a healthy weight. You should also avoid fried food, fatty food, baked goods, and other unhealthy treats.

Make Lifestyle Changes 

In addition to your diet, your lifestyle will also play a massive role in determining your BMI. Regular exercises such as running, biking, lifting weights, and other cardio and resistance training are essential. A sedentary lifestyle will quickly lead to obesity and the associated health problems. If you’re underweight, you should consult a dietician to help you determine the amount of calories you need to consume daily to achieve a healthy weight. 


As you can see, BMI screening is essential to preventing many health problems and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. While going to a doctor is the most reliable and comprehensive way to perform BMI screening, you can also do this at home. DIY BMI screening will give you a good idea of whether you’re overweight, underweight, obese, or normal weight. Once you know your BMI, you can follow up with a medical professional if you have concerns or questions. 

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