How do I accurately check my body fat?

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

Body fat percentage has fast become the number that people want to know most about their body.

The human body has 60,000 miles of blood vessels. It has nerve impulses that travel to and from the brain at speeds of up to 250 miles per hour (faster than a Formula 1 racecar). It has 7000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (7 octillion) atoms yet when we stand on a weighing scales, none of this seems to matter. Commonly referred to as the sad step, the standard domestic weighing scales has arguably been the most common measure of weight over the past few decades but unfortunately it doesn’t measure body fat.

As fitness and health has become ever more popular in Ireland in recent years, the importance of the number on your scales has been somewhat demoted. The emphasis is now shifted to the measurement of body fat and lean muscle mass. There are few ways to do this – one being the ever dreaded body fat calipers. Looking like something from a builders toolbox or a medieval torture apparatus, this method is probably the most commonly used technique to find out what percentage of your body is fat and which is muscle.

Body-Fat Percentage Norms For Men
Age Very Low Fat Low Fat Average Fat Very High Fat Over-Fat
20-30 Years < 9% 9-12% 13-16% 17-19% 20%+
30-40 Years < 11% 11-13% 14-17% 18-22% 23%+
40-50 Years < 12% 12-15% 16-20% 21-25% 26%+
50+ Years < 13% 13-16% 17-21% 22-27% 28%+

Body-Fat Percentage Norms For Women

Age Very Low Fat Low Fat Average Fat Very High Fat Over-Fat
20-30 Years < 17% 17-20% 21-23% 24-27% 28%+
30-40 Years < 18% 18-21% 14-17% 25-29% 30%+
40-50 Years < 20% 20-13% 24-27% 28-31% 32%+
50+ Years < 21% 21-24% 24-31% 32-35% 36%+

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However, according to David Robson from body fat calipers, “are a good way in which to chart progress, it should be said that calipers cannot be totally accurate. In fact, in some circles it is thought that skin-fold measurements, not body-fat percentage, will provide greater accuracy when monitoring changes”.

So with this in mind, how do measure your body fat? 

A DEXA scan takes into account body fat, lean muscle mass and bone into account, whereas other testing of body composition  does not take into consideration the variable density between fat, muscle and bone.

So next time you step on the scales and are unsure on whether you have lost fat or muscle or both – maybe consider a DEXA scan to get the real answers about your body.

As part of the Executive Health Screen at Charter Medical, if clinically indicated, you can not only thoroughly investigate your health concerns through a variation of investigations but you can also avail of a Body Fat Analysis Dexa Scan.

Click here for more information on our Health Screens.