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Understanding the Numbers on the BMI Scale

Understanding the BMI Scale Number

Once a person has determined their BMI using the scale, the next step is to interpret the results. BMI results for adults are interpreted differently from those for children under the age of 20.
 
For adults 20 years and older, the BMI scale results are interpreted using standard weight status categories that are the same for all ages and for both men and women. The standard weight status categories associated with BMI ranges for adults are shown in the following table.
 
BMI
Weight Status
Below 18.5
Underweight
18.5 – 24.9
Normal
25.0 – 29.9
Overweight
30.0 and above
Obese
 
For children and teens, after determining the BMI, the number is plotted on the BMI-for-age growth charts (for either girls or boys) to obtain a percentile ranking. The percentile indicates the relative position of the child's BMI number among children of the same sex and age.
 
BMI-for-age weight status categories and the corresponding percentiles are shown in the following table.
 
Weight Status Category
Percentile Range
Underweight
Less than the 5th percentile
Healthy weight
5th percentile up to the 84th percentile
At risk of overweight
85th to less than the 95th percentile
Overweight
Equal to or greater than the 95th percentile
 
(Click BMI and Weight for more information on additional factors that healthcare providers consider when determining risk for certain medical conditions related to weight.)
 
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