By now you've probably consigned fitness tools like shake weights and vibrating abs belts to the junk drawer.
Get ready to toss another one in there: body mass index, aka BMI.
Long considered archaic, the old-school body composition measure has long been used to determine whether someone is underweight, in a normal range, or overweight; even though it just compares height and weight—and not, say, muscle mass or body fat percentage. You could be an NFL running back—5'9", 210 lbs, nothing but fast-twitch muscle—and score as "overweight" on the BMI scale. Meanwhile, some guy walking around with a mini-keg on his gut might not be flagged as such—even though visceral fat (a gel-like fat that wraps around your internal organs, and protrudes from your abdomen) is far more dangerous, and heightens your risk for chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
Clearly, there's some room for improvement. That's why the good people at the Mayo Clinic have helped Select Research develop a more advanced measure of body composition and weight distribution, all packaged into an iPad app called the Body Volume Indicator. The technology comes after 10 years of extensive fat distribution research, and the BMI scale's obvious shortcomings.
What is Body Volume Indicator?
Body Volume Indicator compares your total body volume with the volume of your abdomen, essentially measuring your ratio of total body fat to visceral fat. Using an iPad and the BVI Pro app, a doctor, exercise physiologist, or dietician can measure your BVI by entering your vitals (height, weight, age, gender, and level of fitness) and then taking two photos of you (one from the front, and one from the side). The app then divides your body into seven 3D "slices" to analyze your body volume and composition.
In less than 30 seconds, the app will measure your volume of body fat, visceral fat, abdomen volume, waist-to-hip ratio, BMI, and your unique new BVI number—a more holistic picture of your overall health and fitness.
The measurement is markedly more precise than BMI, because it can estimate your weight distribution and how much fat is nestled around the organs—something we obviously can't detect with our own eyes. Here's the app in action:
“The idea for BVI was born out of the realization that using external measurements was just one piece of the puzzle, and rather than just accepting this as the standard, we needed to measure internal factors as well,” Richard Barnes, CEO of Select Research, said in a press release. “Thanks to the support from the Mayo Clinic and our other global collaborators, BVI—delivered through the BVI Pro app—can now help effectively identify and manage health risks, based upon a person’s weight distribution, in a cost-effective way, providing something of real value for the professional community in the U.S., and eventually globally.”
Along with the BVI Pro app, BVI America is launching an initiative called #SpeakVolumes to educate and encourage professionals to change the way they measure and talk about body composition with their patients. Ask your physician or health and fitness expert for an analysis. The app is available for experts now.