Exercise matters more than fat

BMI is a faulty classifier of health, and employers need to focus on alternative measures of wellness.

Keelia Moeller

Recently some workplace wellness programs have led employers to monitor the health and fitness levels of their employees. This would be beneficial if employers weren’t using BMI, or body mass index, as their main measuring tool.
 
 
Employers are using BMI in order to determine which employees they can charge more money for health insurance. This is in line with the Affordable Care Act, which could allow employers to charge unhealthy workers up to 30 percent of health care costs. 
 
 
However, BMI is an unreliable determining factor when it comes to health, and it is unacceptable that employers are using them as health indicators.
 
 
A BMI  compares someone’s weight to their height. But it doesn’t distinguish between muscle, bones, fat and water. It also doesn’t take into account age, ethnicity, gender or physical fitness — all of which change the context of the BMI itself. 
 
 
Furthermore, a study conducted by University of California-Los Angeles psychologists also found that 20.7 million people with a “normal” BMI measure were actually unhealthy.
 
At the same time, about 2 million people whose BMI categorized them as “very obese” turned out to be very healthy. 
 
 
It is entirely unethical to use BMI as a classifier of health, especially in the workplace. To charge an employee more for their health insurance because of a flawed measure like this one is unjustifiable.
 
 
Health is not just based on weight. Endurance, physical activity and strength are more concrete measures of health, and this is what employers need to focus on. 
 
 
Keelia Moeller welcomes comments at [email protected].