What does the number on the weight scale really mean? Regarding overall health, weight is not nearly as important as the composition of that weight. Rather than tracking weight, we should be aware of our body composition. Body composition reveals the relative proportions of fat and lean mass in the body. Fat mass consist of two types of fat: essential and nonessential fat. Lean mass refers to bones, tissues, organs, and muscle. This is why body fat testing is important.
Essential fat is the minimal amount of fat necessary for normal physiological function. For males and females, essential fat values are typically considered to be 3 percent and 12 percent, respectively. Fat above the minimal amount is referred to as nonessential fat. It is generally accepted that a range of 10-22 percent for men and 20-32 percent for women is considered satisfactory for good health.
A body composition within the recommended range suggests you have less risk of developing obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and even some cancers. However, we face another set of risks when our body composition is too low. When we drop below the minimal recommended levels of essential fat, we negatively affect the delivery of vitamins to the organs, the ability of the reproductive system to function, and our overall well-being.
How can you complete body fat testing or body composition testing? Body composition can be estimated through various techniques that range from field-based tests requiring only a calculator or tape measure to advanced tests conducted in a clinical or laboratory setting performed by a trained technician. Common methods used to measure body composition include body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, the skin fold method, bioelectrical impedance analysis, and hydrostatic weighing.
Calculation of your percentage of body fat through any of these techniques is best done by a fitness professional, such as a personal trainer or trained technician. These individuals will not only be able to make accurate assessments but will also be able to explain the results to you. Check with your local fitness facility to see what methods of assessment are available to you.
The results from your body fat testing can be used to identify risks, personalize your exercise program, or evaluate how well your current exercise and nutrition program is working for you. If you find that your body composition has room for improvement, take a closer look at what you can do to make positive changes to your current level of activity and diet. If you need help designing a new exercise program or staying motivated, consider working with a personal trainer. They have the tools and training necessary to help you create a fitness program that will help you reach your goals in a safe and efficient manner.
Changes in body composition take time and a dedicated effort, but the positive impact on health and quality of life is worth the effort. Participation in regular exercise along with a healthy, balanced diet are the key to reaching and maintaining a healthy body composition. And remember to consult your doctor before starting any exercise program to make sure it’s right for you.