Validity of Height Equations for Estimating Body Weight Among College Men and Women


Abby Orf, Nicole Young, Liz Jorn, Jana L Arabas, and Jerry L. Mayhew

Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri

Concern over weight gain across the life span has prompted exploration of methods for estimating ideal body weight. Various studies have used a scaling procedure to estimate weight based on height increments above 5 feet tall (153.4 cm). These procedures have not been evaluated on large samples of young men and women to determine their feasibility to set an individual’s weight. PURPOSE: To determine the accuracy of selected height prediction equations for estimating body weight in college men and women. METHODS: College men (n = 5,501) and women (n = 6,625) enrolled in a required fitness class over several years were measured for height and weight. In addition, fat mass (FM) and fat-free mass (FFM) were determined from gender-specific skinfold equations. Body type was determined by regressing FFM/Ht2 on FM/Ht2 for each sex and partitioned into slender (SL), average (AV), and solid (SO) based on the standard error of the regression. Weight for each sex was predicted from centimeters above a standard height of 153 cm using 6 equations from the literature. RESULTS: Repeated-measures ANOVAs indicated 5 equations significantly underestimated and 1 equation overestimated women’s weight. In women, 1 equation significantly underestimated and 5 underestimated weight. In men, 3 equations significantly underestimated, 3 significantly overestimated, and 1 accurately estimated weight. New gender-specific equations developed on validation groups (4,373 men and 5,283 women) produced weight estimates that were not significantly different from actual weight in either sex in cross-validation groups (1,119 men and 1,342 women). Approximately 50% of men and 46% of women had estimates within ±10% of actual weight using the new height equation. Greatest deviations from actual weight occurred in slender women (68%) and solid men (65%). CONCLUSION: Previous height equations for predicting desirable weight may not be accurate in young men and women. Newly developed equations show promise but needs further evaluation to reduce the number of over and under-estimations in samples of diverse weights.

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