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Measuring Body Composition is Better Than Checking Your Weight
Whether you are taking care of your overall health, or trying to lose weight, measuring body composition is the best indication of your wellbeing.
There are several different methods of doing this which also take into account our feminine gender, age and level of day-to-day activity.
Even if we weigh the same as we did 10 years ago it is most likely that our body fat will have increased and muscle reduced. So where we once had a nice flat tummy and love handles were just for others, we now have lumps and bumps that we try to hide behind baggy T-shirts, and stop wearing those figure-hugging tops that now emphasize every roll of fat. We are confused by the fact that our weight hasn't increased, so why is this happening?
Its a fact of life that from the age of around 25 our bodies begin to change slowly and if our diet remains unchanged we will begin to gain weight unless we increase our level of activity or exercise. This is why measuring body composition is much more relevant than your actual weight.
So How is Body Composition Measured? How is Body Fat Calculated?
Maybe you already know how to calculate BMI and that it is a calculation based on height to weight ratio, indicating whether you are within a normal healthy range or not. Body Mass Index or BMI doesn't measure body fat, nor do any tables that list and height and weight.
The most reliable method, some say the gold standard, is called hydrostatic or underwater weighing. It isn't readily available though you may find it at some gyms. Basically it involves a water tank in which you are totally immersed while exhaling all the air in your lungs, followed by some complicated calculations. There aren't many places where this is available and it isn't a very pleasant experience!
Let's skip straight to how you can measure your body fat relatively easily in your own home - body fat scales. Advances in technology mean that these scales can give us a prediction of our body fat, they don't actually measure it. However, they do a very good job in helping you assess your body fat, though you need to be methodical and consistent in the way you use them.
Follow the manufacturers guidelines carefully - time of day, fluid and food intake can all make a difference, even taking a shower before using them! Like most things in life you get what you pay for, so buy the best you can afford. Accuracy will increase with price!
Skinfold or body fat calipers are a reliable but low tech method of measuring body composition. Do you remember the catch phrase 'Can you pinch more than an inch?' from an old Special K ceral ad? If calipers are used correctly in the right locations and by an experienced person they can give results that are useful to measure progress.
Finally a relative newcomer to measuring body composition is the Bod Pod - a state-of-the-art method. Its an air tight, egg shaped chamber that you sit in wearing a swim suit but no water is involved! After performing 2 tests using very accurate scales and some computer wizardry it will even provide you with a printout.
Measuring Body Composition Conclusions
If you are serious about measuring your body fat percentage then the most accurate way is definitely to use the hydrostatic method.
Body Fat Calipers in the hands of an experienced person are a low cost, convenient method. They require the use of appropriate formulas to calculate the body fat percentage, it's not just a case of grabbing a fold of skin! It is difficult to test yourself though there are test-yourself-calipers available.
Body Fat Scales or Monitors are convenient and if used according to guidelines you can use them to accurately monitor changes in your body fat composition. They may not give you a precise body fat percentage but that doesn't matter as you can follow any changes consistently.
If you can find one, then the Bod Pod may well be they way to go in the future as it becomes more readily accessible in health clubs and gyms.
Make no mistake, it's way better to use any one of these methods to calculate your body fat than to rely on bathroom scales if you are serious about your health.
The information provided on this website is for reference purposes only. It is not intended as medical or professional advice.
Welcome! I'm Tiffany - fifty something midlifer - 20 years experience! This site is packed with advice and information to help you get the most out of life by becoming, healthier, fitter, happier and ultimately taking you to a more satisfying future. C'mon, let's do it together!