FIT OR FAT
IS YOUR BMI PUSHING UP INSURANCE PREMIUMS
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.”
UNFAIR: CrossFit coach Isabelle Allen says fit people should not be penalised by insurers.
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.