What is a Healthy Weight?

Tack Your Weight

What is a Healthy Weight?

Man running on seafront

What constitutes a healthy weight is different for every individual, as it’s dependent on muscle mass, height, age and other factors. However, it’s important to be aware of what your healthy weight range is, as being overweight can increase your risk of certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure. Here’s how to work things out.

Understanding ‘healthy weight’

There’s no one ideal weight for all individuals, as what’s considered ‘healthy’ is based on:

  1. Age
  2. Muscle-fat ratio
  3. Height
  4. Body shape
  5. Body fat distribution
  6. Sex1

Overweight vs. underweight

Carrying too much, or too little, weight can increase your risk of several health conditions. This includes certain cancers, diabetes, heart disease2 and cardiovascular problems. Therefore, it’s important to keep an eye on whether you’re within the healthy weight range for your body.

It’s important to be aware that not everyone who is an unhealthy weight will develop health issues. But, it will increase risks. Both being overweight and underweight can cause their own problems.

Being overweight can cause (among other things):

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sleep apnea3

Being underweight can cause (among other things):

  • Amenia
  • Decreased immunity
  • Fertility issues
  • Osteoporosis
  • Heart conditions
  • Malnutrition4

It’s not carrying excess weight that’s the only problem; being underweight has its issues too.

What is ‘ideal’ weight?

A healthy, ideal weight is one that puts you at the lowest risk possible for developing certain illnesses – as mentioned above.

Those at a healthy weight can still develop health problems. However, the chance is lowered compared to those in an unhealthy weight category.

‘Ideal’ weight is also dependent on natural body shape, everyone carries weight differently. Two individuals at a similar height and weight will likely look completely different, as it’s largely dependent on genetics and other factors.

Woman Stretching

How to work out if your weight is healthy

Getting a handle on your weight, and whether it’s healthy, can be easier than you might think.

Use a BMI calculator

BMI stands for body mass index and is an indicator many health practitioners use to work out if someone is a healthy weight. A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered healthy5 in adults.

You can use a BMI calculator to get a result, either underweight, overweight or healthy. It will look at:

  • Age
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Sex
  • Activity level

BMI has come under criticism in the past for inaccuracy, as it doesn’t distinguish between muscle mass and fat when it comes to weight. Since muscle is denser than fat, and takes up more space than fat,6 a person could be lean and have high muscle mass, which will make them heavier. BMI could classify them as overweight.

However, this is only usually a problem for certain groups, such as athletes. In most adults, BMI is a good indicator of whether you’re at a healthy weight or not. A BMI calculator can also be used to check if a child is a healthy weight.

Waist to height ratio

Since BMI isn’t 100% accurate in all adults, if you prefer a different system, another method is waist-to-height ratio (WtHR).

To calculate this, divide waist size by height. If the answer is 0.5 or less, the chances are that you have a healthy weight.7

For example, a person with a 28 in (71 cm) waist and 5 ft 7 in (170 cm) height has a waist–height ratio of 0.42 – which is in the healthy range.

Waist-to-hip ratio

Waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) is another way of determining if you’re at a healthy weight, as those who carry excess weight around their middle are often at a higher risk of illnesses like diabetes. The higher the waist measurement in proportion to the hips, the greater the risk.

Measure your waist just above the belly button (narrowest part) and divide this by the measurement around your hip at the highest part.

Health risk      Men Women
Low 0.95 or lower 0.80 or lower
Moderate 0.96–1.0 0.81–0.85
High 1.0 or higher 0.86 or higher8


Body fat percentage

Another method is body fat percentage. This is more difficult to work out, as it involves dividing the percentage of fat by total weight. While we all need fat to survive, carrying an excess of it can cause adverse health effects and be a sign someone is overweight.

Finding out your percentage of body fat can be done at a gym, or by a dietician or doctor.

So, what should your body fat percentage be?


Age Healthy body fat % (men) Healthy body fat % (women)
20-39 8-19% 21-32%
40-59 11-21% 23-33%
60-79 13-24% 24-35%9

Woman riding in winter on bicycle

How to get to a healthy weight

If you find out you’re in an unhealthy weight category, the most important factors will be diet and exercise. Whether underweight or overweight, eating a healthy diet is absolutely key. The importance of good nutrition, and eating a variety of foods, should never be underestimated.

Avoid takeaways and highly processed foods, swapping for healthier, home cooked options. These will likely contain less sugar, saturated fat and salt. Meal prepping in advance can be a good idea, to ensure you get adequate nutrition, as well as giving you control over what you’re eating.

Calorie counting can be helpful here, as it can give you an idea of what you’re eating, and how much. If you’re overweight, the goal will be to eat in a moderate calorie deficit (where you burn more calories than you consume) as this will help you lose weight in a sustainable way.

Speak to a doctor

You should always seek the guidance of your doctor or GP if you suspect you’re at an unhealthy weight. They’ll be able to provide specific recommendations to suit your needs and tailor their advice to suit you.

There are many different elements that make up a healthy lifestyle, with weight just being one of them. Many who begin the journey to get themselves to a healthy weight find that it dramatically improves their quality of life, boosts mood and provides significant benefits to overall health.


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