Cookies on the Bupa website

We use cookies to help us understand ease of use and relevance of content. This ensures that we can give you the best experience on our website. If you continue, we'll assume that you are happy to receive cookies for this purpose. Find out more about cookies

Continue

Navigation

Healthy weight for adults

Weighing too much or too little can increase your risk of several diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your weight to make sure you stay within a healthy range.

Here we explain how to work out whether or not you’re a healthy weight and what changes to make if you’re not.

An image showing a woman at the gym

Details

  • How does my weight affect my health? How does my weight affect my health?

    If you’re overweight or obese, it can increase your risk of developing a whole range of health problems. These include conditions such as:


    On the other hand, being underweight and not having an adequate diet is associated with:

    • osteoporosis (if you don’t get enough calcium in your diet) 
    • poor muscle strength
    • reduced immune function – so you're more likely to get infections
    • increased risk of heart problems
    • fertility problems

    Keeping to a healthy weight will reduce your chance of developing these health problems.

  • What is a healthy weight? What is a healthy weight?

    The most common way of measuring if you're a healthy weight for your height is to calculate your body mass index (BMI). It can also be useful to look at your waist circumference, which gives a better idea of where you store fat on your body.

    BMI (body mass index)

    BMI is used to estimate if you're a healthy weight for your height.

    You can work out your BMI using our BMI calculator.

    BMI is classified as in the table below.

    BMI Classification
     Less than 18.5 Underweight
     18.5–24.9 Healthy weight
     25–29.9 Overweight
     30– 39.9 Obese
     Over 40 Morbidly obese

    As your BMI increases, so does your risk of various diseases.

    Limitations of BMI

    BMI isn't always very accurate in certain groups of people or because of other factors that you need to take into account.

    • Children. Children’s weight changes a lot as they grow. The BMIs of children are usually compared to others in the same age group so as to get an idea of whether they are higher or lower than average.
    • Having a lot of muscle. You may have a very high BMI if you have a lot of muscle but have very little body fat.
    • Certain ethnic groups including people of Black African, African–Caribbean and Asian descent. In these groups, your risk of health problems such as type 2 diabetes is greater at a lower BMI. You risk is classed as increased at a BMI of 23, and high at a BMI of 27.5.

    Body shape and waist circumference

    Where you store fat on your body is also an important indicator of whether or not your weight is a risk to your health. Storing fat around your abdomen ('apple-shaped') is thought to be worse for your health than storing it around your thighs and bottom ('pear-shaped').

    Your waist circumference gives you a good indication of how much fat you store around your abdomen.

    Here’s how to measure your waist circumference properly.

    • While you’re standing, put a tape measure around your middle – place it midway between your hipbones and the bottom of your rib cage (usually about level with your belly button).
    • Make sure the tape measure is horizontal and around your waist.
    • Keep the tape snug around your waist but don’t pull it in.
    • Breathe out and measure your waist.

    Check the table below to see if your waist circumference is putting you at risk of health problems.

    Risk of health problems due to weight  Waist circumference  
       Men  Women
     Low  less than 94cm (37 inches)  less than 80cm (31 inches)
     High  94–102cm (37–40 inches). For Asian men, this is 90cm (35 inches) or more)  80–88cm (31.5–35 inches)
     Very high  more than 102cm (40 inches)  more than 88cm (35 inches)

    If you’re not sure whether you’re a healthy weight, check with your practice nurse at your GP surgery.

  • How to maintain a healthy weight How to maintain a healthy weight

    How much you weigh is mainly determined by the balance between what you eat and drink, and how active you are. The energy that food provides and which you use up walking, running or even sitting still is measured in calories. Put simply:

    • you'll gain weight if you take in more calories than you use up
    • you'll lose weight if you use up more calories than you take in
    • you'll maintain your weight if you balance the calories you take in with the calories you use up

    Other factors can also make a difference – for instance, your genetic make-up can sometimes make you more likely to put weight on. And some medical conditions can also affect your weight. If you're currently over or underweight, you'll need to make some changes to get to your ideal weight.

    If you’re overweight or obese

    If you're overweight, it will really benefit your health if you try to lose the excess weight and maintain a healthy weight. To lose weight, you'll need to burn off more calories through physical activity than you take in from food and drink. This means reducing how much you eat, as well as increasing how much activity you do.

    It's worth thinking about the following points.

    • What you eat. Eating foods high in fat and sugar will make you more likely to put on weight.
    • How much you eat. Many people eat much larger portion sizes than they need.
    • How much activity you do. The recommended target to maintain your weight is to do 30 minutes of moderate-intensity at least five times a week. You may need to do more than this to lose weight; particularly if you don't reduce the amount you eat enough.

    Read our article Losing weight safely for more tips.

    If you’re underweight

    There are lots of reasons why people might be underweight. There could be an underlying medical reason or you may just find it hard taking the time to make healthy, nutritious meals. Being underweight can also be the result of a mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

    Being underweight means you might not be getting all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that your body needs to be healthy. Try to increase your calorie intake through eating a balanced and nutritious diet. You might need to eat nutritious snacks in between meals, and go for higher fat options (such as full-fat milk) until you reach your ideal weight.

    Unexplained weight loss, or inability to put on weight, can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying health problem. If you have concerns about weight loss, contact your GP.

  • Worried about your BMI?

    Get a picture of your current health and potential future health risks with one of our health assessments. Find out more today.

  • Other helpful websites Other helpful websites

    Further information

    Sources

    • Health matters: obesity and the food environment. Public Health England. www.gov.uk, published 31 March 2017
    • Preventing excess weight gain. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), March 2015. www.nice.org.uk
    • Obesity. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.nice.org.uk, last revised June 2015
    • Healthy living. Oxford handbook of general practice (online). Oxford Medicine Online. oxfordmedicine.com, published April 2014
    • Nutrition support. Oxford handbook of nutrition and dietetics (online). Oxford Medicine Online. oxfordmedicine.com, published December 2015
    • Rheumatology, dermatology and bone health. Oxford handbook of nutrition and dietetics (online). Oxford Medicine Online. oxfordmedicine.com, published December 2015
    • Nutrition assessment. Oxford handbook of nutrition and dietetics (online). Oxford Medicine Online. oxfordmedicine.com, published December 2015
    • Obesity: identification, assessment and management. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), November 2014. www.nice.org.uk
    • Body Mass Index – BMI. World Health Organization. www.euro.who.int, accessed 28 November 2017
    • BMI: preventing ill health and premature death in black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence(NICE), July 2013. www.nice.org.uk
    • Waist circumference and waist–hip ratio. Report of a WHO expert consultation. World Health Organization, 2008. apps.who.int
    • Energy intake and expenditure. British Nutrition Foundation. www.nutrition.org.uk, accessed 30 November 2017
  • Has our information helped you? Tell us what you think about this page

    We’d love to know what you think about what you’ve just been reading and looking at – we’ll use it to improve our information. If you’d like to give us some feedback, our short form below will take just a few minutes to complete. And if there's a question you want to ask that hasn't been answered here, please submit it to us. Although we can't respond to specific questions directly, we’ll aim to include the answer to it when we next review this topic.

    Let us know what you think using our short feedback form
  • Related information Related information

  • Tools and calculators Tools and calculators

  • Author information Author information

    Reviewed by Pippa Coulter, Freelance Health Editor, January 2018
    Expert reviewer, Mr Paul McArdle, Registered Dietitian
    Next review due January 2021

About our health information

At Bupa we produce a wealth of free health information for you and your family. We believe that trustworthy information is essential in helping you make better decisions about your health and care. Here are just a few of the ways in which our core editorial principles have been recognised.

  • Information Standard

    We are certified by the Information Standard. This quality mark identifies reliable, trustworthy producers and sources of health information.

    Information standard logo
  • HONcode

    This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information:
    verify here.

    This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify.

What our readers say about us

But don't just take our word for it; here's some feedback from our readers.

Simple and easy to use website - not alarming, just helpful.

It’s informative but not too detailed. I like that it’s factual and realistic about the conditions and the procedures involved. It’s also easy to navigate to areas that you specifically want without having to read all the information.

Good information, easy to find, trustworthy.

Meet the team

Nick Ridgman

Nick Ridgman
Head of Health Content







  • Dylan Merkett – Lead Editor
  • Graham Pembrey - Lead Editor
  • Laura Blanks – Specialist Editor, Quality
  • Michelle Harrison – Specialist Editor, Insights
  • Natalie Heaton – Specialist Editor, User Experience
  • Fay Jeffery – Web Editor
  • Marcella McEvoy – Specialist Editor, Content Portfolio
  • Alice Rossiter – Specialist Editor (on Maternity Leave)

Our core principles

All our health content is produced in line with our core editorial principles – readable, reliable, relevant – which are represented by our diagram.

An image showing or editorial principals

                  Click to open full-size image

The ‘3Rs’ encompass everything we believe good health information should be. From tweets to in-depth reports, videos to quizzes, every piece of content we produce has these as its foundation.

Readable

In a nutshell, our information is jargon-free, concise and accessible. We know our audience and we meet their health information needs, helping them to take the next step in their health and wellbeing journey.

Reliable

We use the best quality and most up-to-date evidence to produce our information. Our process is transparent and validated by experts – both our users and medical specialists.

Relevant

We know that our users want the right information at the right time, in the way that suits them. So we review our content at least every three years to keep it fresh. And we’re embracing new technology and social media so they can get it whenever and wherever they choose.

Our accreditation

Here are just a few of the ways in which the quality of our information has been recognised.

  • The Information Standard certification scheme

    You will see the Information Standard quality mark on our content. This is a certification programme, supported by NHS England, that was developed to ensure that public-facing health and care information is created to a set of best practice principles.

    It uses only recognised evidence sources and presents the information in a clear and balanced way. The Information Standard quality mark is a quick and easy way for you to identify reliable and trustworthy producers and sources of information.

    Certified by the Information Standard as a quality provider of health and social care information. Bupa shall hold responsibility for the accuracy of the information they publish and neither the Scheme Operator nor the Scheme Owner shall have any responsibility whatsoever for costs, losses or direct or indirect damages or costs arising from inaccuracy of information or omissions in information published on the website on behalf of Bupa.

  • British Medical Association (BMA) patient information awards

    We have received a number of BMA awards for different assets over the years. Most recently, in 2013, we received a 'commended' award for our online shared decision making hub.

Contact us

If you have any feedback on our health information, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us via email: healthinfo@bupa.com. Or you can write to us:

Health Content Team
Battle Bridge House
300 Grays Inn Road
London
WC1X 8DU

Find out more Close

Legal disclaimer

This information was published by Bupa's Health Content Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition.

The information contained on this page and in any third party websites referred to on this page is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it intended to be for medical diagnosis or treatment. Third party websites are not owned or controlled by Bupa and any individual may be able to access and post messages on them. Bupa is not responsible for the content or availability of these third party websites. We do not accept advertising on this page.

For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the 'About our health information' section.

ˆ We may record or monitor our calls.