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How to Measure Body Fat

There's a lot to consider when figuring out your optimal weight and fitness. Read more to learn the most effective ways to measure your body fat percentage.

Every year, it seems like more and more people are becoming health conscious. Many individuals are getting out of their usual lifestyle to achieve the bodies they want to have. Health services and products are now abundant in the market, promising consumers great results in little to no time. Of course, not all these claims are real.

People are most commonly concerned about the levels of fat in their bodies and are eager to shed it as soon as possible. But before you can lose your unwanted baggage, you must first measure your body fat percentage to know where to focus your attention. There are several ways to estimate body fat percentage. Since all methods have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages, measuring body fat isn’t performed routinely.

You must also remember that the measurement has margins of error. Some things to remember when determining your body fat percentage include:

  • Several experts have differing opinions about the concept of a healthy body fat percentage.
  • Around 10 to 25 percent body fat is deemed healthy in an adult male.
  • About 18 to 32 percent body fat is healthy in an adult female.
  • Anything above or below these levels is usually seen as unhealthy.

Percentage of body fat varies greatly among different population sectors. Sex, age and activity levels also affect the body fat percentage. Take for instance, runners will have lesser body fat than swimmers. Also, people living near the North or South Pole have more body fat than those living near the equator. The percentage of body fat by itself cannot tell whether a person has reached optimal health or not.

Methods of Measuring Body Fat

If you want to know how much fat your body stores, you can choose from many ways of calculating body fat. Here is a rundown of some of the most popular methods:

  • Skinfold Thickness -- With the use of an instrument called a “caliper,” the thickness of the skinfold is measured to know how much fat is present at one or more areas in the body. This gives a reasonable estimate of fat composition especially if measurements were taken from different areas. It’s important to take note that the results can vary when several people take the measurements.
  • Bioelectrical Impedance -- By passing a small electrical current through the body, the electrical resistance is measured. This body fat measurement is based on the principle that a lean body mass conducts electricity than a fat body mass.
  • DEXA or Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry -- A type of x-ray which can reveal how much fat tissue a person has and where it is located.
  • Underwater Weighing -- Also known as “hydrodensitometry,” this is based on the principle that fat tissues are less dense than bones and muscles in water.
  • BMI (Body Mass Index) -- This process uses an individual’s weight and height to know the proxy for human body fat.
  • BAI (Body Adiposity Index) -- This is a new way of measuring body fat which uses a person’s height and hip circumference.
  • Air Displacement Plethysmography -- In this method, a person will be enclosed in a computerized egg-shaped chamber which will measure the weight and volume of the body to determine the body density.
  • Some people still use the simple and most common ways of measuring body fat with the use of a tape measure. Measurements are done on several parts of the body and then the percentage is calculated using a scientific calculator.

Well-known celebrities who have the least amount of body fat and have great bodies include Arnold Schwarzenegger. According to sources, Arnold’s arms measure 19 ¾ in when they’re slightly pumped and at his prime, they came in around 20 ½ in.

Not all fats are dangerous for your health. In fact, you need a certain level of body fat to remain healthy and fit. The fat that can be found on the hips, buttocks and thighs are considered safe but the fat found on the abdominal area can be potentially dangerous. Experts say that fat, no matter where it's located on the body, belongs with the whole body. This means that you can’t spot reduce your fat. You can’t do leg raises to lose thigh fat and sit-ups to lose abdominal fat. If you want to shed the fat off, you need to do an overall workout that will reduce the amount of fat on your entire body.


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