FIT OR FAT

IS YOUR BMI PUSH­ING UP IN­SURANCE PRE­MI­UMS

The Courier-Mail - - FRONT PAGE - EX­CLU­SIVE JACKIE SINNERTON HEALTH RE­PORTER

PEO­PLE who are fit but score highly on the body mass in­dex are hav­ing to pay higher pre­mi­ums for life in­surance, the same as heavy smok­ers or those with a drink­ing habit.

In­creas­ing num­bers of com­pa­nies of­fer dis­counts to those who have a BMI un­der 28, thereby ex­clud­ing many of the coun­try’s week­end fit­ness en­thu­si­asts and elite ath­letes. But Queens­land health ex­perts say BMI alone is not an ac­cu­rate in­di­ca­tion of good health.

While obe­sity is con­sid­ered a risk of mor­tal­ity for in­sur­ers, the BMI sys­tem au­to­mat­i­cally as­sumes weight is re­lated to height. But many short peo­ple have large mus­cle mass, push­ing the in­dex into red zones.

The Heart Foun­da­tion cal­cu­la­tor rates any­one with a BMI over 30 as obese.

Aus­tralian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion Queens­land pres­i­dent Dr Dilip Dhu­pelia says the AMA un­der­stands firms are try­ing to of­fer in­cen­tives for peo­ple to get in shape.

“Mus­cle weighs heav­ier than fat and the BMI does not mea­sure body fat and is not a use­ful tool for ath­letes. Eth­nic­ity can have a big im­pact on BMI too,” Dr Dhu­pelia said.

“I think any­one who is very fit but doesn’t qual­ify for a dis­count should ar­gue their case to these in­surance com­pa­nies.”

Dr Dhu­pelia said BMI was use­ful an in­ex­pen­sive and ef- fec­tive tool to track obe­sity lev­els in pa­tients at the GP.

AMP, As­teron, TAL and Neos are just some of those of­fer­ing dis­counts of up to 10 per cent on poli­cies based on BMI.

Di­a­betes Queens­land chief says in­sur­ers will lose busi­ness if they dis­crim­i­nate on weight as 64 per cent of Queens­lan­ders are over­weight or obese.

“BMI is best used in con­junc­tion with other mea­sures such as blood pres­sure, choles­terol and HbA1c (a blood glu­cose av­er­age over three months) tests to get a true un­der­stand­ing of a per­son’s health. Check­ing waist mea­sure­ment is also im­por­tant,” pres­i­dent Craig Bey­ers said.

A waist mea­sure­ment greater than 94cm for men and 80cm for women is a prob­lem. In­ter­nal fat de­posits can coat the heart, kid­neys, liver, di­ges­tive or­gans and pan­creas.

Heart Foun­da­tion care and sup­port di­rec­tor Rachelle Fore­man said BMI did not take into ac­count age, eth­nic­ity, gen­der and body com­po­si­tion.

Crossfit has taken the state by storm and it is all about power and strength.

Coach Is­abelle Allen said most peo­ple in her classes would be in the over­weight or obese BMI range de­spite be­ing fit and healthy.

“They are very strong and fit peo­ple that we would say are a healthy weight so it is sim­ply wrong to use BMI against peo­ple when it comes to in­surance pre­mi­ums,” she said.

WHAT a wake up call.

That’s the cry from a Gold Coast fam­ily who have just com­pleted The Courier-Mail’s Fit­bit chal­lenge.

“See­ing my results in print was a glar­ing re­al­ity that I don’t have enough “me time” – no time to do phys­i­cal ex­er­cise or have men­tal re­lief,” said mum-of-four Lau­ren Paris, who wore a Fit­bit for a week along with hus­band Sam and el­dest daugh­ter Jac­inta, 8, in or­der to com­pare the results.

The chal­lenge has also shaken up Sam who feels his wife de­serves more of a break.

He man­aged to record more than twice the num­ber of steps than his wife and main­tain a lower heart rate.

“On Mon­day, just af­ter see- ing the Fit­bit results, Sam in­sisted I take time out and go to a Zumba class,” Lau­ren said.

“Be­fore kids I was very much into fit­ness and played a lot of team sport and I think he now re­alises that I have lost all of that.

“I think like most mums I carry the men­tal load. Even though I en­joy Zumba, the re­al­ity is I am think­ing the whole time about the kids’ needs, such as who’s li­brary day it is next or do I have ev­ery­thing for school lunches.”

The cou­ple says ev­ery fam­ily should take a week to put the spot­light on their busy lives. Sam works full-time trav­el­ling to bak­eries across Queens­land and Lau­ren works in com­mu­ni­ca­tions for a tech­nol­ogy com­pany four days a week in the of­fice and one day re­motely. She also runs the pop­u­lar blog Gold Coast Mums.

“Sam is very much a hand­son dad and does help around the house. With four kids in three years we have been run off our feet. I would love to see the results for some poor mum with a lazy part­ner. There is nowhere to hide when you are wear­ing a watch that is dis­sect­ing your life on a daily ba­sis,” Lau­ren said.

Sam be­lieves men can be more self­ish and will take the time for them­selves.

“Most women are think­ing of ev­ery­one else all the time and I am sure that is very ex­haust­ing,” he said.

“While I cov­ered 105,996 steps in the week, Lau­ren man­aged 42,854. She was un­well dur­ing the week chal­lenge but her daily di­ary is still chock­ers with fam­ily or work

du­ties. She has a desk job and I walk around a lot in my day and also like to ex­er­cise. I played a rare round of golf for a char­ity event dur­ing the chal­lenge.”

Sam’s av­er­age rest­ing heart rate was 59 beats per minute while Lau­ren’s was 63. Lau­ren man­aged an av­er­age of six hours and 14 min­utes of rest­ful sleep while Sam only had five hours and 39 min­utes.

“When I fall into bed I am ex­hausted. Some­times I think I should set my alarm for 4am and get out then and ex­er­cise but I am of­ten up late work­ing,” Lau­ren said.

At the week­end, Sam had to work and also took the older kids to Nip­pers while mum took the four-year-old twins to the movies.

Eight-year-old Jac­inta com­pleted 55,315 steps and slept rest­fully for seven hours and 41 min­utes hours on av­er­age. She likes to takes care of the dog and helps with her younger sib­lings.

Lau­ren be­lieves she is the typ­i­cal work­ing mum who is over­stretched.

“Women just get used to get­ting on with things and learn to jug­gle ev­ery­thing in their heads. I love my kids and en­joy my time with them but ev­ery woman needs a bit of time as a woman rather than just a mother,” she said.

“When I am not at work, ev­ery minute I am sur­rounded by kids. I am not an­noyed at Sam that he gets to have a quiet cof­fee with a client as he is a great hus­band but what this chal­lenge has shown me is that I am im­por­tant too and per­haps it’s time for me to be more self­ish.”

Pic­ture: John Gass

UN­FAIR: CrossFit coach Is­abelle Allen says fit peo­ple should not be pe­nalised by in­sur­ers.

Pic­tures: Adam Head

WAKE UP CALL: Lau­ren Paris with chil­dren Jor­dan, 6, and twins Natalia and Vic­to­ria, 4; (op­po­site) Sam Paris and the cou­ple’s el­dest child Jac­inta, 8.

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