64% of Canadians are classed as overweight or obese, a number that is rising rapidly. The assumption is that being overweight coincides with being unfit and unhealthy. Of course, this can often be the case, but there are plenty of overweight or obese people that live active lives and eat healthily. Measuring body fat and muscle percentage can help to separate weight from health, but health and fitness often get lumped together, despite a person being able to be healthy but not fit.

Not all pounds are the same

Most people would agree that a bodybuilder isn’t unhealthy, despite weighing more than a healthy amount. Bodybuilders generally take their health and fitness very seriously, yet their goals are often orientated by how much weight they want to gain. This is because it’s actually muscle mass that they’re measuring. Muscle weighs more than fat and doesn’t increase the risk of developing diabetes, having a stroke or a coronary event, so someone can have a high BMI but have similar health risks as someone in the ‘healthy’ BMI range. However, if excess weight is caused by fat there are associated health risks and it’s likely the individual will be unhealthy or unfit, or they may develop problems in the future if nothing is done.

Measuring health and fitness without BMI

Due to the limitations of BMI, measuring health and fitness in other ways can give a better idea of health, regardless of weight. Measuring the circumference of the waist, hips, biceps, thighs, and chest can give a good indication of weight lost or gained, but again, muscle isn’t taken into consideration. However, measurements can be used to work out ratios, such as waist-to-hip and waist-to-height for a better health indication. Working out body fat percentage or muscle mass percentage are also good ways to measure health. One of the easiest ways to measure these is with scales that have these functions built in.

Being healthy without being fit

To be healthy means having no disease or illnesses, having good numbers for things like blood sugar tests, and no vitamin deficiencies. It’s possible to be healthy without being fit, but it’s likely to only last so long. Fitness is gained by doing regular exercise, which leads to better health. Exercise bikes are ideal for anyone of any size to improve their fitness, but can be a good starting point for people who are a heavier weight, whether it’s due to carrying a lot of fat or muscle. Reclined bikes take the pressure off of joints and the back, helping to relieve pain and aches associated with a heavier body weight, whereas a treadmill results in the knees taking a lot of weight.

For the average person, BMI is usually enough to get an idea of health, but measuring body circumferences and percentages of fat and muscle can give a clearer picture. It’s important to distinguish between being healthy and being fit. Working on fitness will usually result in better health but working on just health doesn’t always result in good fitness levels.