How fit is India’s population?
Among the most common metrics used to measure physical fitness is the Body Mass Index (BMI). It is calculated as the weight of a person in kilogrammes divided by the square of their height in metres. According to the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS), a person is considered to be thin or overweight or obese, if their BMI score is less than 18.5 or more than 25. BMI scores between these values are considered normal.
Between 2005 and 2006 and 2015 and 2016, India reduced the share of thin people in its population by 12.7 and 14 percentage points for women and men, respectively. However, there was also an increase of 8.1 and 9.6 percentage points in the share of overweight/obese population for women and men respectively. (See Chart 1)
Richer, middle-aged and urban population is more likely to be overweight or obese in India. Women are more likely to be overweight or obese than men after they cross 30.
This could be the result of social norms which restrict mobility and physical activity for older women. (Chart 2)
All metros have a higher share of overweight or obese men and women than the national average. Among women, Mumbai has the highest share of the overweight or obese people, followed by Chennai, Delhi, and Bengaluru.
The pattern is similar for men, except that the share of high BMI men in Delhi is lower than that in Bengaluru (See Chart 3).
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