BMI is a standard measurement used to evaluate an individual’s weight in relation to height. Weight and body fat standards are often set for military organizations -- the Navy, the Air Force, the Army, the Marines and the Coast Guard -- and recruits must meet these standards to enlist or maintain membership. Normal BMI for adults is from 18.5 to 24.9, overweight is 25.0 to 29.9, and obese is classified as a BMI of 30 or above. Not all divisions of the military use BMI as their standard. Some branches use body fat percentage or weight maximums.
The Army sets a minimum and maximum weight for each height and age group and recruits must meet these standards to join the army. For a man who is 5 feet 9 inches, the minimum weight for all ages is 128 pounds, and the minimum BMI is 18.9. Maximum weight qualifications vary by age range, and the highest weight a man at this height can be -- at any age -- is 186 pounds with a BMI of 27.5. For a woman who is 5 feet 4 inches, the minimum weight for all ages is 110 pounds, and the minimum BMI is 18.9. Similar to men, the maximum weight varies with age and the resulting BMI ranges from 24.9 for a 17 to 20-year-old to a BMI of 25.9 for women over 40 years of age.
The Navy uses body fat percentage, not weight or BMI, as a standard for recruits and active members. The maximum body fat for men ages 17 to 38 is 22 percent, and for those 40 years of age and above, it is 23 percent. For female members of the Navy ages 17 to 38, body fat must be 33 percent or less, and 34 percent or less for those aged 40 and above.
Similar to the Army, the Air Force sets maximum weight requirements for height for all applicants. For a man who is 5 feet 9 inches tall, the maximum weight is 186 pounds which equals a BMI of 27.5. For a woman who is 5 feet 4 inches tall, the maximum weight is 160 pounds which also equals a BMI of 27.5.
The Marines are the most liberal in terms of weight requirements, with 215 pounds the maximum weight for a man who is 5 feet 9 inches tall and 21 to 30 years of age. The minimum weight for men at the same height is 119 pounds, a the minimum BMI at 17.6. The maximum weight requirements vary and the calculated BMI ranges from 30.9 to 31.7. A waiver is required if a man is more than 5 percent of weight standards. For a woman who is 5 feet 4 inches tall, the minimum weight for all ages is 110 pounds, and the minimum BMI is18.9. The maximum weight is 152 pounds, and the maximum BMI is 26.1 for women ages 31 to 35 years.
The Coast Guard uses BMI as their standard for all members. The minimum BMI is 19 and the maximum is 27.5 for both men and women. Additionally, maximum and minimum weights are imposed during screening, and if the maximum weight is exceeded, the member is subjected to a body fat assessment. The maximum weight for a person who is 5 feet 4 inches tall is 160 pounds, and the maximum weight for a height of 5 feet 9 inches is 186 pounds.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Healthy Weight – It’s Not a Diet, It’s a Lifestyle!
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Mean Body Weight, Height, and Body Mass Index, United States 1960-2002.
- US Army Basic: Army Height and Weight Standards
- Navy: Physical Training
- U.S. Air Force: Height and Weight Standards
- Headquarters, U.S. Marines Corps: Military Personnel Procurement Manual, Volume 2 Enlisted Procurement
- United States Coast Guard: Coast Guard Weight and Body Fat Standards Program Manual