The dreaded bathroom scale is used most often to monitor fitness level, but, while weight provides handy, frequent feedback, it can also be misleading. For many reasons, body fat testing is usually much more useful.
Traditional scales cannot separate weight from fat and muscle, which is problematic since muscle, being denser and more fibrous, weighs more than fat. As a result, you could maintain or even gain weight even as your fitness increases and your waistline shrinks.
For this reason, body fat testing is superior for those making dramatic lifestyle changes or attempting to attain athletic physiques.
Body fat tests determine the amount of your total weight that is comprised of fat cells. And yes, everyone needs at least some fat! Women are considered healthy between 16 and 25% body fat, while (responsible) fashion models are typically between 10 and 15% and female Olympic sprinters, who are much more muscular, are usually just below 10%. Men are considered healthy between 11 and 20%, while most NHL hockey players are below 10% and competitive male body builders achieve below 5%, a truly grueling feat.
So where do you stack up? Luckily, there are many ways to find out.
One common method is body fat testing scales. Unlike traditional scales, which read total weight only, body fat scales allow you to determine what percentage of your weight is made up of body fat. They do so by using a small electrical current that travels through your legs, determining body fat percentage by comparing the resistance levels of fat versus other tissues. You cannot feel this current, so body fat testing scales are an unobtrusive me testing method, butkeep in mind that they may be a little less accurate as they have a tendency to concentrate on the lower limbs.
Not ready to purchase a new scale?
Then thank goodness for the Internet, as many self-measurement calculators available online. Some could be unreliable, but most provide reasonably valid results if performed properly. Regular body-fat testing can be a good indicator of general health, but you should never disregard personal fitness feedback. Remember to always monitor your stress levels, sense of well-being, the fit of your clothes, and your current workout capabilities.
Never place too much emphasis on any one objective test. Because if you feel healthy, chances are you’ll soon also look great!
For help testing your own body fat percentage or designing personalized fat-busting fitness routines, consider contacting a personal trainer for additional support.
Shaun Karp is a certified personal trainer. For further information call his office at 604-420-7800 or visit their web site www.karpfitness.com.