Personal trainer doesn’t buy into using BMI to determine a healthy weight

Story and photos by Alicia Mikoloyck, NewsNetNebraska

Emily Suhr doesn’t rely on BMI or body mass index alone while training her clients, she insists better methods are out there.

Suhr, 21, has been a personal trainer at the YMCA in downtown Lincoln Neb. for three years. She is also a volunteer for “Girls on the Run” and CEDARS, a nonprofit organization for neglected or abused children.

Emily Suhr is a 21-year-old personal trainer who believes BMI is bogus.

Emily Suhr is a 21-year-old personal trainer who believes BMI is bogus.

BMI has long been used as a way to measure the amount of fat a person has in his or her body.

“I think it’s very inaccurate in that it only allows you to put in your height and weight, it doesn’t take into account other factors.” Suhr said.

According to the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute , the BMI test does have a disclaimer that the test may not account for those who have an athletic build or older people who may have lost muscle.

According to Suhr, calipers are a more accurate way to determine the amount of body fat a person has.

“First you make them (the client) feel really uncomfortable by asking them to lift their shirt,” Suhr said. “Then you clip the caliper in four different places, one of their triceps, thighs, hips and then the bellybutton.”

How the calipers determine the amount of body fat is fairly simple. When the calipers are clipped on the specified places, it measure how much is being clipped. Once all places have been measured, the numbers are added together to determine the amount of body fat.

Once the calipers have determined the amount of body fat the client has, Suhr creates a workout plan catering to what needs to be worked on or is a goal of the client.

“If a client wants to lose weight, I have them on a more cardio based workout that includes running,” Suhr said.  “If they just want to tone up and build muscle, the emphasis is more on lifting weights.”

Suhr said that in all honesty, she never uses BMI in order to determine what weight and body fat percentage is best for her clients. She believes that the results it delivers can be disappointing.

Karla Hudson, health and wellness director for YMCA downtown, agrees with Suhr in that BMI is not the most accurate way to measure body fat, but calipers are more accurate.

“On an individual basis, I don’t think it’s good,” Hudson said. “It doesn’t account for muscle, and muscle weighs more than fat, so it would put that person at a higher body fat, which would be inaccurate.”

For Suhr, her body fat is normal according to the BMI scale. When putting her height of 5 feet 8 inches and weight of 150 pounds, her BMI is 22.85 percent, putting her at a normal weight.

Suhr compared to her BMI, a number that says she is almost overweight.

Suhr compared to her BMI, a number that says she is almost overweight.

This changes rapidly if you start to put in different weights or put Suhr three inches shorter than she is. If she is 5 foot 5 inches and at the same weight, she is now considered to be overweight and vice versa if you add more weight to her while keeping her original height.

As shown in the picture to the above, you can tell that if Suhr were just a bit shorter, anyone would be able to tell she isn’t overweight.

In order to maintain an ideal body weight, Suhr offers advice to her clients. She tells them they need to do at least 45 minutes of cardio work five to six times a week and eat healthy foods.

“McDonald’s and Burger King aren’t going to get you to your ideal weight nor will eating there keep your weight where it should be,” Suhr said.

To help her clients be conscious of what they are putting into their bodies, Suhr recommends an app called “My Fitness Pal” available for download on iPhone and Droid devices.

The app lets you put in what you have eaten and then it tells you how many calories it is, allowing you to keep track of how many calories you take in in a day.

Even with all the health apps out there and the many different methods of determining how much body fat your body has, according to Suhr,  in the end it’s all about how you feel.

“If you feel good, you look good too.”

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