What ways are there to measure body fat?

The body takes in fat from food and stores it. This stored fat protects the organs, provides energy, and helps keep the body insulated. However, too much body fat can lead to obesity and other chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The conventional body mass index (BMI) only measures total body weight, without taking body fat and muscle mass into account. A very muscular person, for example, may have a low percentage of body fat but a high BMI. It can be frustrating to step on the scale and see no change. While it’s natural to want objective feedback on your progress, body weight shouldn’t be your main focus. Here are the some ways to measure your body fat percentage.

Skinfold measurements

Skinfold measurements

The body stores a large amount of fat directly beneath the skin. Measuring the thickness of skinfolds in different areas of the body can help a person estimate their body fat percentage. It requires a person to use calipers to measure the thickness of skinfolds. Due to differences in body fat distribution, males and females need to take measurements in different areas. Males should measure skinfolds on the chest, thigh, and abdomen. Females should measure skinfolds on the triceps, thigh, and just above the hip bone. It is important for people to take the measurements at the same sites each time.

People can then enter these measurements into an online calculator, which estimates body fat percentage. It is important to note that skinfold measurements vary widely, and body fat distribution can differ, based on race, age, sex, and physical activity.

Body Circumference Measurements

Body shape varies from person to person, and the shape of your body provides information about your body fat . Measuring the circumference of certain body parts is a simple method of body fat estimation. For example, the US Army uses a body fat calculation that simply requires an individual’s age, height and a few circumference measurements. For men, the circumferences of the neck and waist are used in this equation. For women, the circumference of the hips is also included .

Using body circumferences to estimate body fat is quick and easy. However, the accuracy of this method can vary widely and is not considered an ideal method of measuring body fat percentage.

Body fat scales

Some bathroom scales estimate body fat percentage. They use a method called bioeletrical impedance analysis . BIA involves passing a very weak electrical current through the body to measure its resistance to the current. Body fat is particularly resistant, meaning that it conducts electricity less effectively than other tissues and substances within the body. Therefore, measurements that show a greater resistance indicate a higher body fat mass.

Body fat scales

Scales can use this measurement and information about gender, age, and height to estimate body fat percentage.

According to a study, BIA can give a reasonable estimate of body fat percentage. However, it is not the most accurate method available. Also, scales from different manufacturers may give different results.

Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA)

As the name implies, DXA uses X-rays of two different energies to estimate your body fat percentage. During a DXA scan, you lie on your back for approximately 10 minutes while an X-ray scans over you. The amount of radiation from a DXA scan is very low. It’s about the same amount you receive during three hours of your normal life.

Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA)

DXA is also used to assess bone density and provides detailed information about the bone, lean mass and fat in separate body regions (arms, legs and torso)

Hydrodensitometry

Hydrodensitometry

Underwater weighing, uses a person’s body mass and volume to calculate their body density. This helps with assessing body fat composition. In order to determine body density, a person must divide body weight, or mass, by body volume. The volume of an object is how much space it takes up. Hydrodensitometry involves submerging a person in water and measuring the volume of water that they displace. This displacement indicates body volume.

Following hydrodensitometry, a person can use body mass and volume measurements to calculate body density with an equation. A further equation converts body density into body fat percentage. Hydrodensitometry is usually only available at medical centers and research institutions.

 

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