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Body Composition


Excess body fat has been associated with a number of health risks, including heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, gall bladder disease, cirrhosis of the liver, hernia, intestinal obstruction, and sleep disorders.   

Total body weight includes Lean Body Mass (bone, muscle, skin, and fluids) and Body Fat (adipose tissue and subcutaneous fat).  Body fat is expressed as a percentage of total body weight.  A minimal amount of Essential Fat (about 2-4% for Men and 8 - 12% for women) is necessary for normal physiological functioning and good health.  The higher value for women is required for child bearing.

Average body fat is 12 - 20% for men and 18 - 25% for women. Athletic individuals may be leaner. Your percentage of body fat can be compared to established norms (See below).

Overweight and Overfat are not the same! Overweight simply means you are more than 10% of your ideal weight compared to standard height/weight charts.  The term, overfat, is based on body fat measurements: Men with more than 20% body fat are overfat, and women with more than 30% body fat are overfat.

Determining your body composition, the percentage of body fat to lean body tissue, is a more effective gage of health than simply jumping on the scale or using a height/weight chart.

As we age, our basal metabolic rate (BMR) decreases, percent lean body mass decreases, and percent body fat increases.  A comprehensive fitness program can slow this process and maintain BMR.

An inexpensive and fairly accurate way to determine your body's composition is through the use of calipers for skinfold measurements.  Below are the sites where the skinfold measurements should be taken for men and for women.

Men Women
Chest A diagonal skinfold taken halfway between the crease of the underarm and the nipple Triceps a vertical fold on the back of the upper arm between the shoulder and elbow
Abdomen A vertical skinfold taken one inch lateral to the navel. Suprailium A diagonal fold taken at or just anterior to the crest of the ilium.
Thigh A vertical skinfold taken midway between the hip and knee joints on the front of the thigh Thigh A vertical skinfold taken midway between the hip and knee joints on the front of the thigh

The skinfold measurements for each area should be added together to get a sum total and then cross referenced for your age group.

Percent Fat Estimate for Men: Chest, Abdomen and Thigh Skinfolds

Percent Fat Estimate for Women: Triceps, Suprailium, and Thigh Skinfolds

You'll maintain lean muscle mass and lose body fat through a healthy diet and a realistic exercise program that combines cardiovascular conditioning, strength training, and flexibility.

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