Exercise is Medicine by ACSM

Body Fat Index

Determine your body fat percentage

Use a tape measure to determine your waist, hip and neck circumference. Then input your gender and measurements below to receive a body fat index based on average values. The body fat index is not an indicator of fitness level since the calculation is made with no regard to height or weight.

Metric Imperial
Your Body Fat is
These calculations are based on averages.

Body Fat Percentage Categories

Classification Woman (% Fat) Men (% Fat)
Essential Fat 10-12 % 2-4 %
Athletes 14-20 % 6-13 %
Fitness 21-24 % 14-17 %
Acceptable 25-31 % 18-25 %
Obese 32 % 25 %

We all have a certain level of essential body fat, approximately 3-5 percent for males and 12-15 percent for females, which is required for tasks such as physical and thermal insulation, fuel reserve, and nerve conduction. Going near or below these levels result in reduced recovery and impaired immune system response.

What are the primary tools we can use to track our body weight or fatness? They range from the simple to the expensive and exotic. The key for me, as discussed previously, is consistency and reliability.

1) Weighing (Scale)

  • The simplest way to track weight, of course, is with a scale, which can range from your inexpensive bathroom scale to the one in my lab that costs nearly $4K
  • The key is to be consistent in when and how you weigh yourself. Ideally, this is first thing in the morning after your bathroom trip.

2) Skinfold

  • The most popular alternative to hydrostatic weighing is skinfold measurement, using a caliper to measure the thickness of the fat layer directly under your skin.
  • Seems easy and cheaper, but beware that technique is absolutely critical, so make sure the tester is credibly certified, and ideally use the same one each time


3) Bioelectrical impedance

  • How they work may be a “shock” to you — a tiny current is sent from one part of the scale, through your body, then to another part of the scale.
  •  As fat is an electrical insulator, changes in body fatness changes the speed at which the current is conducted through your body.

There are many of other big and expensive ways to measure body composition, but they aren’t overly practical and you’ll only find them in very high-priced labs or research hospitals. Again, the main thing to consider with body weight or fatness measurement is reliability or consistency.

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