BMI, or body mass index, doesn’t always give a clear picture of whether a person is truly overweight for their body type and more importantly doesn’t consider how fat is distributed on the body.  It is well-known that women carrying body fat around their mid-section, the so-called apple body shape, have a higher risk of heart attack.

BMI is generally determined by your height, weight, and gender and where that places you along the scale.

BMI doesn’t take into consideration a woman’s frame or women who are more muscular.  While BMI can usually give you a good general idea of whether you’re in a healthy weight range, it doesn’t always.

Just going by what the bathroom scale says when you step on it doesn’t tell the whole picture.  It might tell an interesting story when you throw the scale across the room but that’s for another day.

In a 2014 study appearing in the journal Advances in Medicine (Polymeris, Papapetrou, and Katsoulis) used average body circumference as a way to determine a woman’s BMI.  In this study 8 different circumference measurements (neck, waist, hip, arm, forearm, wrist, thigh, and ankle) were taken and from this an average circumference was calculated.

After studying the results it was determined that average body circumference based on those 8 measurements and were shown to be a good substitute for determining BMI.



According to the results, women with an average circumference greater than 44cm  correlated with a BMI estimate greater than or equal to 25, while women with an average circumference greater than or equal to 47.1cm correlated with a BMI greater than or equal to 30.

A BMI of 25 is considered an optimal, healthy weight, while a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese but those numbers don’t always paint a clear picture of how fit an individual is.

For the sake of science, I’ll share my measurements…(make sure you measure in centimeters and not inches!)

Ankle 22cm
Thigh 50.1cm
Neck 35.6cm
Waist 79cm
Arm 32cm
Forearm 25.1 cm
Wrist 16 cm
Hips 97 cm


After adding up all of my measurements and divided by 8 my average circumference is 44.6cm with a little margin of error because I wasn’t sure exactly where along my thigh or arm to measure but it does correlate with what my BMI is according to my weight.  My BMI according to my height and weight is 26.7 which puts me in the overweight category.

My average body circumference of 44.6cm just barely places me into the overweight category.  44 cm or less was correlated with an optimal BMI of 25 in the study.  Surely, I can find a way to lose .6 cm here and there.

A bit of data that might throw off the estimate some is neck circumference because women with thyroid nodules or other thyroid issues were not included in the study because it may skew the results.  I do have thyroid issues.  Neck circumference has been correlated with predicting obesity by some studies, although this particular study found that hip measurements correlated more strongly. (The overall body average correlated the strongest.)



Where We Carry Weight Matters The Most

Probably the more important thing to take away from all this is that where we carry our body weight matters more than our BMI.  Excess belly fat is far worse than having large hips, at least for your health.

A waist measurement greater than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men has been correlated with higher rates of heart disease.  Those are the numbers we need to remember.

While this study didn’t take into consideration body shape or how fat is distributed, it still gives one a better idea of their risk of heart disease because knowing your measurements, especially of the waist, is good information to know.

My waist measurement tells me I’m in a good, healthy range but I could definitely improve those numbers and that’s the important thing to take away from knowing your measurements in addition to your BMI.


Antonis Polymeris, Peter D. Papapetrou, and Georgios Katsoulis, “An Average Body Circumference Can Be a Substitute for Body Mass Index in Women,” Advances in Medicine, vol. 2014, Article ID 592642, 6 pages, 2014. doi:10.1155/2014/592642



Categorized in:

Health & Fitness,

Last Update: March 28, 2018