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Are Height and Weight Charts Really Accurate for Women?

Height and weight charts are one of the ways that people measure their own size against where they ‘should’ be. However, they have long been questioned as to whether they are appropriate tools for all or even the majority of women. There are many points of view on the subject.

Height and Weight Charts

In the simplest extreme, height and weight charts include a height combined with a weight range that is considered ‘ideal’ for each height. Slightly more complex charts offer a choice for women to categorize themselves as small, medium, or large framed. To use these, women must first calculate their frame size.

The main problem with these charts is that they do not take into account body composition. A woman may be heavier than the chart says she should be, but because of muscle, not fat. Likewise, a woman who thinks she is fine because she is within the recommended range can still have quite a high body fat percentage.

Alternatives to Height and Weight Charts– BMI

One common alternative that is being used a lot these days is the BMI (Body Mass Index). It essentially a weight chart by a different name. Instead of defining only a range of ‘acceptable’ weights for a given height, it gives a number. This number is used to place women into the categories of ‘underweight,’ ‘ideal’, ‘overweight’ and ‘obese’. Some charts and doctors use additional categories.

BMI calculations essentially run into the same problems as height and weight charts. They only use height and weight, which has the potential to be inaccurate for some people. Unlike a height and weight chart, however, there is no ‘frame size’ for BMI, which can make it even more inaccurate. Despite this, doctors say it provides a reasonably good estimate for most people.

Alternatives to Height and Weight Charts– Body Fat Percentage

Ideally, everyone should measure their health by body fat percentage. The amount of fat people have is a good indication of their general health, their risk for weight-related diseases, and does not discriminate against large-framed or well-muscled individuals. However, it can be difficult to accurately gauge.

To get a true body fat percentage, a person must have a special test conducted in a tank of water. This is not a realistic option for most people. A second method is to measure skin-fold thickness with a special pair of calipers at certain locations on the body. However, this requires an experienced and trained person (usually a doctor) in order to find the right locations and take the measurements correctly.

Practical Health Risk Assessment Tool– Waist Size

Because everyone is different, finding an ideal weight measurement that works for everyone is difficult. Often, the best option that is possible is the tape measure. It turns out that measuring either your waist size or waist to hip ratio is a better indicator of health risks than overall weight. This may be because abdominal fat is more damaging to your health than fat carried on other parts of the body.

Conclusion Height versus weight charts are one tool in the arsenal aiming for better health. However, they are not necessarily effective. The best tool in terms of health is probably a combination of body fat percentage and waist size. Unfortunately, while the latter is easily found, the former requires a skilled professional take the measurements or a very specialized piece of equipment. Adding to the already complicated situation is evidence that fitness may be more important than weight anyway. At least one study has shown that fit people of the same height and weight live longer, regardless of their weight.


This article was written by Karl Stockton on behalf of