Body Weight and BMI an Issue for George W. Bush?

President George W. Bush had his annual physical August 1st 2008 … and with that news comes a lot of editorialized news from the press. It seems people are a in little bit of a tizzy over a little weight gain — 5 pounds to be exact.

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For example, from REDORBIT ‘our universe online’ there’s a report from Alex Cukan stating that

… from Bush’s physical we find he has the medical issues of a typical baby boomer — except he’s a lot more fit than most baby boomers. In fact, he has a Body Mass Index of 16.8 compared to 15.65 last year — for his age Bush is in the 99th percentile. Nobody’s perfect: He gained about 4 pounds since last year.

Only problem is that she’s got to be reporting his body fat percentage, not Body Mass Index or BMI. Alex then continues with what seems to be an accurate report:

The president has a resting blood pressure of 108/68 and pulse of 46 — numbers to die for, except that would defeat the purpose of being in such fine physical shape.

These enviable numbers are achieved by six workouts a week that include bicycling 15 to 20 miles at 15-18 mph; walking a treadmill — low impact hill-work — as well as work on an elliptical trainer, free-weight resistance training and stretching.

She continues …

Bush has intermittent bilateral anterior knee pain, activity-related, with a left medial meniscal injury and subsequent surgical repair in 1997. His report said, An old incomplete tear of the PCL of the right knee with resultant patello-femoral chondromalacia, post-traumatic degenerative changes and asymptomatic medial meniscal damage, all most consistent with a remote athletic injury and physical activity. In other words, a knee injury has barred Bush from jogging anymore.

But then Alex messes up that BMI figure again and says, “I, for one, am motivated. I do 10 to 15 miles on a stationary bicycle five days a week, and I can only dream of a BMI of 17.”  For the record to prevent misleading the public, an individual with a BMI under 19 may be at risk for osteoporosis and malnutrition.  A 17% body fat percentage for woman is enviable.  Women tend to have a higher body fat percentage than men … 17% puts a woman in an athletic body composition category.

So what is the president’s BMI? Well, it actually is 26, putting him in the lower range of the overweight category. He weighs 196 pounds, gaining 5 pounds since last year and his percentage of body fat has increased from 15.65% to 16.8%. That is still a very respectable body fat percentage for a male.

You can calculate your own BMI HERE on

ABC News ran an online headline that read: ‘How Much Is Too Much: Is the President Too Chunky? His Body Mass Index Puts Him in Overweight Territory, but What Does That Mean?‘  Bottom line is that many of us, men especially, have extra muscle mass, which makes the BMI inaccurate. BMI is a good screening test. Also known as the Quetelet’s Index, BMI was found to be an accurate indicator of obesity in women in a 1985 study by Garrow and Webster. But if you really want to know your body composition, check out your body fat percentage with underwater weighing, skin calipers or a bioimpedance device.

It is important to note that as BMI increases, there is more stress on joints whether that extra body weight is due to fat or muscle.  Muscle coordination, muscle balance and neuromuscular efficiency become especially important when an individual is bulked up with muscle and performing in sports involving high force levels.

Also, in elderly women with low BMI, lifelong physical activity may protect the women from fractures.

You might want to check these two helpful articles from
Size and Shape — Performance and Health
Obesity Overview

Caregiving: Bush’s Physical an Eye-Opener on

Garrow JS, Webster J. Quetelet’s Index (W/H^2) as a measure of fatness. Int J Obestiy. 1985; 9: 147-153

Korpelainen R, Korpelainen J, Heikkinen J, Vaananen K, Keinanen-Kiukaanniemi S.  Lifelong risk factors for osteoporosis and fractures in elderly women with low body mass index–a population-based study.
Bone. 2006 Aug;39(2):385-91.

How Much Is Too Much: Is the President Too Chunky? His Body Mass Index Puts Him in Overweight Territory, but What Does That Mean? on