How much should you weigh for your height and age? We all ask that question as we see a few pounds creep onto our bodies. We know it is important to keep our weight at a healthy level, but what exactly does that mean? You can answer this question several ways. Let us jump in, examine a couple methods, and then discuss your best option.
The first method is to use a simple height, age, and weight chart. Using an online chart can help you narrow down the right weight but it leaves many questions unanswered. Here is an example from one chart. For a many 5'10” tall with a medium frame, he should weigh between 151 and 163 pounds. Do you see anything missing?
Who determines whether you have a medium frame, a small frame, or a large frame? Anyone who is obese always claims their body is large framed, even if underneath the excess weight there is a small frame. For a man of the same height with a small frame, he should only weigh 144 to 155 pounds. At the 163-pound upper limit for a medium framed person, the small framed person could be 8 to 19 pounds overweight.
The chart does not take into account factors like muscle mass, bone density, or other factors that might affect your overall weight, too. A better option is to use a body mass index system. The BMI method of determining your perfect weight factors in your height, weight, and age. Some systems even ask for additional body measurements to give a more exact answer.
The simplest form of BMI uses a simple calculation of your weight in kilograms divided by your height squared in meters. The resulting number is compared to a BMI chart to determine your current level of fitness. Once again, this system does not take into account muscle mass, bone density, and other factors that might skew the results.
The next method is to figure your body fat percentage. You can do this several ways, but the lowest cost method is to use a cheap set of skin fold calipers you can buy at many drugstores. These calipers allow you to measure the thickness of your skin in several locations on your body to determine what percent body fat you have. This number helps you determine how many pounds of fat your body is carrying in comparison to how many pounds of lean tissue. This is an important number.
Think back to our example of man with a small frame who weighs at the upper end of the medium frame chart. He may have convinced himself he has either a medium or a large frame and is not overweight. By doing a body-fat calculation, he immediately finds out his body-fat percentage is too high and he needs to lose weight. This system takes into account bone density, muscle mass, and eliminates most variables, but does not completely answer the question of what you should weigh.
What is the best solution to answer your question about how much you should weigh for your height and age? The best method is to combine at least two of these systems. Start by figuring your body-fat percentage. This number will keep you honest as you look at either a height-weight chart or calculate your BMI. If you are at a 20% body-fat percent and you believe the height-weight chart says your weight is OK, you can be certain you are using the wrong frame size. The same is true with the BMI calculation. If it states you are fit and ready for action, but you know your body-fat percentage is too high, then you need to readjust your beliefs and expectations slightly.
As you are starting to guess by this point, the biggest liar in the debate about proper weight is your bathroom scale. It cannot account for your body's composition. Getting the right information helps you to make the right decisions. How do we combine these numbers to get the best results?
The starting point is to figure your body-fat percent. Fit men usually have a body-fat percent between 14% and 17%. Fit women average between 21% and 24%. Once you have determined you fat percentage, then grab your height and weight chart, to determine a target for your weight. Let me illustrate this method.
Our 5'10” man currently weighs 170 pounds with a body-fat percent of 25%. That tells us he has about 42 pounds of total body fat. Ideally, he should strive to have a body-fat percent around 17%, or no more than 22 pounds of fat. That calculates to a weight of approximately 150 pounds. Using our height-weight chart, we can see he has a small frame and should weigh between 144 and 154 pounds.
Our final recommendation is very simple. As you age, stay focused on body fat percentage and look at the lower numbers in height-weight charts. Muscle mass and bone density usually decline with age pushing your ideal weight to the lower end.
Using these steps should help you calculate the ideal weight for your height and age and it helps you avoid lying to yourself. When you know the facts, you can make the right decisions.