Raise your Bottom Line by Lowering Your BMI

Numerous studies that point to the phenomenon that a healthier workforce is more productive, and therefore saves a company money.  The current mathematical model for measuring the health of a group over time is to measure and average their “Body Mass Index” (BMI) over time.

The term BMI was coined by nutritional pioneer Ancel Keys in 1972, in response to a phenomenon that was noticed by life insurance actuaries that overweight policy holders experienced a higher rate of mortality.  The calculation itself was originally developed by a Belgian Mathematician, astronomer and statistician named Adolphe Quetelet in 1832.  Quite simply it is the ratio of a person’s mass (kg) divided by the square of their height (meters); the formula in America translates to “703” times Mass (pounds) divided by height (in inches) squared.

Although Ancel Keys is credited with coining the term BMI, his writings indicate a less than enthusiastic appraisal of its usefulness; in his paper “Indices of Relative Weight and Obesity” (1972) he states that “The Body Mass Index seems preferable over other indices of relative weight…on the simplicity of the calculation and, in contrast to percentage of average weight, the applicability to all populations at all times.” Is hardly a ringing endorsement of BMI as the “be all end all” measurement for health and wellness?

A few examples illustrate how BMI might come up short as a method for comparing the wellness of individuals.  Using BMI as the only benchmark, a body builder and a couch potato who are both 6 feet tall and 250 pounds would each have a BMI of 33.9 Would anyone consider each of these people to be equally healthy?

Both Tom Brady (6’4” 225# BMI 27.38) and Deion Branch (5’9” 195# BMI 28.79) of the New England Patriots would be individually considered overweight if BMI were the only measure of their wellness.  I don’t think anyone would characterize either of them as overweight!

Body shape, frame size, and muscle mass are all factors that can skew BMI numbers from being an idea measure of overall wellness.

It is believed that BMI is a much better measurement for population studies over time than it is for static comparisons on individual groups or as a method for individual clinical evaluation.

A simple way to measure group health is to take an average of their BMI and compare those values over time.  The quality of the evaluation and the usefulness of the data improves, if you are able to factor diet, exercise and habits into the wellness picture for a particular group of people.


BMI under


BMI between


BMI between


BMI between

Extremely Obese

BMI between


19 and 24

25 and 29

30 and 39

40 and 54


Measuring BMI gives a business or organization a methodology by which it can gauge the savings associated with the implementation of a successful wellness program.  If a company wellness program results in a reduction in average employee BMI by .2 over a given period of time, and their overall health related expenses also drop; it can be calculated that for every .1 drop in average in the group BMI, the company saves X dollars.


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