BMI Chart for Teens and Children
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- January 3, 2022 Updated
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- What Is BMI?
- What Is a BMI Chart for Teens and Children?
- How Is BMI Calculated for Teens and Children?
- How to Use a BMI Chart for Teens and Children
- BMI Chart For Teens and Children
- Contact a Medical Professional If You’re Concerned
The effects of childhood body mass can affect people their entire lives. Being too heavy in childhood – even if the weight is later lost – can hasten the onset of later-in-life problems such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and cancer. At the same time, being too thin can result in osteoporosis, lowered immune systems, and complications from malnutrition.
As cultures the world over become saturated with aggressive marketing that sells high-calorie foods, the obesity epidemic spreads. Almost paradoxically, however, as obesity enters a community and focus shifts to it, the problems of underweight children grow to be ignored – thinness is valued only for the sake of being thin, and fitness is misunderstood.
In our consumerist culture, much of the information we get is in the form of advertisements. Companies go to great lengths to put them in front of us, and we all know they aren’t always honest. Nevertheless, when it comes to competing industries such as those selling junk food versus those selling fitness products, it can be hard to know what is right.
One tool doctors use to track fitness is Body Mass Index (BMI). A child’s BMI can be measured against the average for their peers. If their values fall outside of the healthy range, steps can be taken to help ensure they are growing normally.
With our BMI Chart for Teens and Children, we have brought this tool out of the doctor’s office and put it into your hands. It’s a simple spreadsheet. To use it, you only need to take a couple of measurements – we’ll even explain how to take those later in this article – and input them into the spreadsheet. That information is then compared against the average for the child’s age, and displayed in an easy-to-read format.
What Is BMI?
The letters BMI are an acronym for Body Mass Index. This is a measurement comparing a person’s height in meters to their weight in kilograms. This measurement can help you determine if a person is underweight, overweight, or obese.
We need to say that while BMI is an excellent tool for measuring health, it isn’t foolproof. Particularly for very athletic people with more muscle mass than their peers, their BMI will skew high. This is why a doctor will also ask questions about other issues, such as a child’s physical activity and diet.
When you take your child’s readings, particularly if they are concerning, be sure to consult the proper medical professional. Not only do they have the expertise to properly diagnose your child, but they also have access to the right tools to help them move forward.
What Is a BMI Chart for Teens and Children?
A BMI chart, also sometimes called a BMI calculator, is simply a tool used by doctors and others to see how a person’s height and weight compares to other children of the same age. Many doctors will call this measurement the BMI for age.
The growth patterns recorded in the BMI charts for teens and children were recorded from national surveys in the United States. The data was collected from 1963 through 1994.
Unlike adult BMI, you must compare the BMI of one child to the BMI of other children of the same age and gender. Since children go through rapid growth spurts at common ages, this age-based comparison helps provide more accuracy. Developing boys and girls will also have different amounts of body fat, which is why BMI charts are also separated by gender.
How Is BMI Calculated for Teens and Children?
When calculating BMI for teens and kids, there are two steps.
- Record the child’s height and weight. If you take BMI measurements at home, this article has tips for getting accurate data: Measuring Children’s Height and Weight Accurately at Home.
- Use a BMI chart to calculate a BMI number.
BMI charts will express the BMI number for children and teens as a percentile.
How to Use a BMI Chart for Teens and Children
When used with children, a BMI chart is not a diagnostic tool. Its primary purpose is to screen for health issues related to growth and weight.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using the BMI chart to screen for overweight and obesity problems in children who are two years old or older.
If a BMI score indicates that there may be a problem with excess fat, there are additional assessments a doctor can do. These include evaluations of diet, skinfold thickness measurements, and questions about physical activity and family history.
A high BMI score can indicate overweight children or childhood obesity. A low BMI score may indicate underweight children. Both of these BMI categories have potential negative health implications.
What Are the Colored Lines on a BMI Chart?
Many BMI charts have colored lines or graph sections. Typically, each chart will have a corresponding key to help you know what each color represents.
Green is often used to represent normal. Children and teens who fall in this weight and height are considered of normal weight.
Other colors typically indicate a potential weight problem. Overweight and obesity are often one color on the chart. Underweight is typically another color. The specific BMI chart you use should have a key to help you interpret the colored lines.
Overweight or At Risk for Overweight
Nearly one in five school age children have obesity. It is a medical problem with health risks. If your child has a high BMI, they should be evaluated by a doctor or another health professional.
Since the BMI for age chart does not directly measure body fat, there is a chance that extra muscle mass is causing the high BMI.
Underweight or At Risk for Underweight
Some children are naturally thin. If your child is developing normally and eating a healthy diet, having a low BMI percentile for age doesn’t necessarily indicate a medical problem.
However, a low BMI can be a sign that something is going on. Eating disorders, failure to thrive, and poverty can all lead to a low BMI.
BMI Chart For Teens and Children
Once you download the Zip folder, you can unzip it and access four different Excel templates. You will receive:
- BMI Chart Boys Pounds Calculator
- BMI Chart Girls Pounds Calculator
- BMI Chart Male 2-20 Years
- BMI Chart Female 2-20 Years
With these four files included in our BMI calculator, it’s easy to find your child's BMI, regardless of your child’s age or gender.
BMI Chart Boys Pounds Calculator
This calculator is designed for use with children between ages 5-19. You will need to know your child’s height in inches and weight in pounds.
At the bottom of the template, there is a place for you to enter your child’s information. Simply add their age, height, and weight. Then, the BMI calculator for kids will automatically convert your entry to kilograms and meters and give you a corresponding BMI number.
This template also plots your child’s current BMI on the appropriate growth chart. Their BMI number is represented by a light blue square.
By looking at the colored band the square is in, you can get a quick idea of how your child compares to other children in terms of growth.
The BMI information for this template was taken from the World Health Organization (WHO), so it is accurate. However, the percentage may vary slightly when compared with Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.
BMI Chart Girls Pounds Calculator
If you want to find the BMI number for a female aged 5-19, use this chart. You use it in exactly the same way as the BMI Chart Boys Pounds Calculator. However, you will notice that instead of blue headings, this chart has pink ones.
BMI Chart Male 2-20 Years
If you have your child’s BMI, you can use this BMI chart to track their growth. The BMI chart information is taken from the CDC, so it will be similar to the data used at your child’s doctor.
Simply enter your son’s age at the bottom. Then enter his BMI. You can use the BMI calculator in the BMI Chart Boys Pound Calculator above.
When you enter the data, you will see his BMI number tracked on the lines in the chart. The green line represents the normal growth pattern of boys.
Along the right-hand side of the graph, you can see the BMI as a percentage. For instance, the green line represents the 50th percentile.
This can help you get a quick comparison of how your child is doing compared to other children his age.
BMI Chart Female 2-20 Years
If you have your child’s BMI, you can use this BMI chart to track their growth. It is identical in use to the Male version, so please follow the directions in the above section. You will notice that this one has pink headings and boxes instead of blue.
Plotting Your Child’s Growth
You can print out a BMI chart and use it to track your child’s growth over time. Each year add a new dot to represent their BMI.
This can help you follow their growth patterns and look for any unusual growth activity. If you have any concerns, you can bring this chart with you to your child’s doctor. This way you have a visual representation of what you are describing, which can help your doctor to look for medical problems.
If you notice that your child is creeping up along percentiles, you can speak to your doctor about making small changes in diet and lifestyle. Those are two areas of concern when looking at childhood obesity.
Here are answers to frequently asked questions about a BMI chart for teens and children.
Why Do BMI Charts Exclude Children Below 2 Years of Age?
The BMI growth for age chart is not recommended for children under two years of age. There are many reasons for this exclusion, including measuring techniques and dietary differences.
Measuring babies and young toddlers is not as simple as having them stand and recording their height. Because they cannot stand still and straight, these young children are measured by recumbent length. This refers to their length when lying down. However, this type of measurement is not as precise as height taken while standing.
The growth pattern for babies and young toddlers varies greatly by their diet. Typically, breast-fed babies have a slower weight gain than formula-fed babies. Also, as they age, the introduction of solid food into their diet isn’t uniform. These differences make it more difficult to create BMI standards based solely on age and gender.
However, the WHO has a set of growth charts for babies and toddlers if you are interested in comparing your young child’s weight and length to others in their age range.
What Is a Healthy BMI Range for Children?
Because of age and height differences, as well as lifestyle diversity, an ideal BMI number is hard to pinpoint for an individual child. You will want to discuss any concerns about BMI with your child’s doctor.
Generally speaking, children with a BMI between the 5th and 85th percentiles are considered to be in the healthy weight range.
Why Are BMI Values Plotted on BMI Percentile Charts for Children?
Unlike adults, children’s body fatness naturally changes over the years as they grow and develop. The amount of body fat is different for boys and girls.
Because of these differences, specific growth charts for ages and genders have been developed. When a child’s BMI value is plotted on these BMI percentile charts, you can look for patterns in growth for an individual child. For instance, if a child is in the 75th percentile when they are three years old, you would expect them to track closely to the 75th percentile as they age.
Major changes in growth can indicate a problem. But these changes would be more difficult to oversee if a child’s previous BMI values had not been plotted.
What Is the Difference Between Overweight and Obese?
While both being overweight and having obesity refer to having excess body fat, they are different. The CDC says that children with a BMI above the 85th percentile, but less than the 95th percentile are overweight. Those with a BMI at or above the 95th percentile are considered obese.
Contact a Medical Professional If You’re Concerned
A BMI chart can help parents keep track of their children’s growth. It can be an insightful tool, and a way to ensure that they are growing properly.
But there is much about a child’s health that cannot be determined by a BMI number or percentile. If you have any concerns about your child’s growth, please contact a medical professional.
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