Body Composition

CaliperTestDefinition: The percentage of your body weight composed of fat compared to fat-free mass.

In our society, scale watching has become an American obsession. However, the scale can’t tell you how fat a person is, because both fat and muscle, as well as bone and water contribute to the total weight.

To determine a person’s body composition, there are several methods that can be used. Underwater weighing is considered the “Gold Standard” or most accurate method, however, this service is not always easy to find. These pools or tanks are sometimes found at a sports medicine facility or university.

Skinfold calipers are more accessible and reasonably accurate, except in the case of a severely obese individual. It is important that several sites be measured, that the tester be experienced, and that the same reliable caliper be used every time.

Other methods include:  MRIs, bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), and infrared interactance, to name a few.

Norms for Body Fat Percentage:

Excellent / Very Lean: Men: <11 Women: <14

Good / Lean:  Men: 11-14 Women: 14-17

Acceptable: Men: 15-17 Women: 18-22

Fair / Fat: Men: 18-22 Women: 23-27

Unacceptable / Obese: Men:  22+ Women: 27+