Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I participated in the Coal Creek Family YMCA's Health Fair last weekend. The most popular booth was the Body Fat Calculation, where a personal trainer used calipers to measure skin thickness in several places to determine the body fat percentage for the curious. We stood in line to have our skin pinched, reveal personal information, and then receive the (usually) unhappy news.
If you'd like to check your own body fat percentage with less embarrassment, there are several available online. My favorite is from HealthStatus.com. You will need a tape measure for your waist, hips, and neck, plus your height and weight. The Body Mass Index calculator uses wrist and forearm measurements instead of the neck. This test isn't as accurate as a caliper test nor the even more trustworthy, expensive, and wet body dunk test, but it is easy to do and private.
According to the American Heart Association, a body fat percentage of 18.5 to 24.9 is healthy. Less than that is underweight (yes, we do need some fat for healthy organ functioning) and 25% or more is overweight. More than overall weight, the amount of weight from fat is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
There is considerable variation between the tests, so you can't take one as the ultimate answer. However, taking the time for a few tests will give you valuable information about your health.