You may have noticed that people are getting “fatter,” but what does this really mean? We tend to associate “fat” with weight, but actually the two are not as similar as we think.
A better measure of how weight is impacting health in all age groups is the BMI, or body mass index. This is a more complicated measurement than weight, taking into account height and ratio of muscle to fat. A “normal” BMI indicates a healthier individual, regardless of weight, and one who is at less risk of diseases associated with high body fat content, such as heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.
Children can also be measured for BMI, although this number is a bit more flexible in children as they grow. Children tend to put on fat just before a growth spurt to give their bodies energy for the process of growing, so a “normal” BMI may have quite a wide range in children. Once an individual becomes an adult, a firmer and more fixed healthy BMI can be set.
However, measuring BMI in children should not be ruled out. Over a certain number, BMI can indicate a child who is developing too much body fat and who should probably engage in more physical exercise to build muscle. Losing weight and gaining muscle early in life will make the struggle to maintain a healthy weight later in life much easier.
Calculating BMI for children and teens is not as simple as for adults, but a general spread of “normal” ranges for children include:
For boys 2-6 years of age, 13-18%
For boys 7-11 years of age, between 13 and 17%, depending on age
For boys 12-18 years of age, between 15 and 18%, depending on age
For girls 2-6 years of age, 14-17%
For girls 7-11 years of age, between 13 and 17% depending on age
For girls 12-18 years of age, between 15 and 21%, depending on age
Of course, it is always better to look at BMI charts for the exact age and weight of your children. The Center for Disease Control provides detailed charts which can be used to track a child’s BMI and see if it falls in the normal range.