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Your Body Fat Percentage: What Does It Mean?
Overfat Versus Overweight
|Interpreting Body Mass Index|
|Obese||30.0 and above|
Measuring Your Body Fat
- Underwater weighing—Under water, lean tissue sinks and fat floats. Your underwater weight can be used to estimate the amount of fat mass you carry. Underwater weighing is highly accurate, but it can be expensive and time consuming, and it requires special equipment.
- The Bod Pod—This machine works by measuring the amount of air your body displaces. Like underwater weighing, the Bod Pod is highly accurate, but it can be expensive and requires special equipment. The Bod Pod is, however, slightly more convenient than underwater weighing, since it does not require underwater submersion. The Bod Pod also takes less time.
- Dual x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan—The DEXA scan uses low-level x-rays to calculate the amount of body fat, muscle, and bone in your body. The advantages of this scan are that it is quick and it takes bone into consideration when comparing body fat to muscle.
- Bioelectrical impedance—This method works by measuring the speed of an electrical current as it travels through your body. It is one of the least expensive methods of measuring body fat. It is less subject to human error than calipers, but its accuracy depends on a number of factors, including hydration, the fullness of the stomach, and how recently a person has exercised. If you are looking for a way to keep track of your body fat percentage at home, you can buy a bioelectrical impedance scale. Keep in mind though, that these scales are not always accurate and are probably better for monitoring changes in your body fat than giving you precise numbers.
Healthy Body Fat Percentages
|Body Fat Guidelines|
|Age||Healthy Body Fat % (Women)||Healthy Body Fat % (Men)|
Reducing Your Body Fat
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases http://www.niddk.nih.gov/
Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology http://www.csep.ca/
Health Canada Healthy Living http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/life-vie/obes-eng.php
About BMI for adults. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi/adult%5FBMI/about%5Fadult%5FBMI.htm. Updated September 13, 2011. Accessed December 18, 2012.
BMI calculator. Calorie Control Council website. Available at: http://www.caloriecontrol.org/healthy-weight-tool-kit/body-mass-index-calculator. Accessed December 18, 2012.
Diets for Weight Loss. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated October 5, 2012. Accessed December 18, 2012.
Body composition. Georgia State University website. Available at: http://www.gsu.edu/~wwwfit/bodycomp.html . Accessed on December 18, 2012.
Gallagher D, Heymsfield SB, Heo M, et al. Healthy percentage body fat ranges: guidelines based on body fat index. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;72:694-701.
Weight and waist measurements: tools for adults. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders website. Available at: http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/PDFs/Weightandwaist.pdf . Updated November 2008. Accessed December 18, 2012.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Update Date: 12/18/2012