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The terms BMI and waist-hip ratio may mean something to you. But have you ever heard of body fat callipers or BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis)? In this article, we present various methods for determining your weight, body fat percentage and body fat distribution. You’ll also learn how reliable these methods are.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
The so-called “Body Mass Index” is an established method for determining weight in relation to body height. In order to determine the value, you square the body height and then divide the body weight by this value. A normal weight is a score of between 18.5 to 24.9. People with a BMI under 18.5 are underweight. People whose value is above 24.9 are overweight. A BMI of 30.0 or above is considered strongly overweight, or so-called obesity.
With our BMI calculator, you can determine your value quickly and easily.
If possible, the BMI should also be considered in connection with the body fat percentage or the body fat distribution. This is because, for some groups of people, the BMI alone is not very enlightening. For example, due to their heavy muscle mass, athletes have a high BMI even though their body fat percentage is low.
Waist-hip ratio (W/H ratio)
The waist-hip ratio is a method for objectively evaluating the body fat distribution for those slightly to moderately overweight. It is determined by dividing the waist circumference by the hip circumference. The result distinguishes between the so-called apple types (women: > 0.85; men: > 1.0) and pear types (women: =< 0.85; men: =< 1.0). While for apple types, the body fat is primarily in the abdominal area, the fat in pear types is predominantly on the hips and buttocks. Our W/H ratio calculator [Markets – link to the waist-hip ratio calculator you provide in your Market] will show you within seconds whether you are an apple or pear type.It also explains how you can best measure your waist and hip circumference, as well as what health effects the respective body fat distribution may have.
The W/H ratio is particularly relevant for slightly to moderately overweight people. The measurement is less meaningful for other groups of people. This is especially true for children or those who are very slim. The W/H ratio should not be considered alone, but rather along with the BMI and, possibly, the general body fat percentage. This will allow you to gain a comprehensive assessment.
Bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA)
The bioelectrical impedance analysis is a relatively reliable method for determining the body fat percentage. Doctors, fitness studios and nutritionists who have the necessary measuring device offer this method. To measure the total body resistance (impedance), electrodes are attached to the body, through which an imperceptible alternating current is passed. The device calculates the body fat percentage by means of resistance. The BIA is a relatively safe method of measurement. In combination with a BMI and W/H ratio determination, it provides an important indication of the overall physical constitution.
The following table shows what body fat values are healthy according to the World Health Organisation:
Healthy body fat percentage according to the WHO
|20 – 39 years old||40 – 59 years old||More than 60 years old|
|Men||8% – 20%||11% – 22%||13% – 25%|
|Women||21% – 33%||23% – 34%||24% – 36%|
Body fat callipers
Many doctors, pharmacists and nutritionists measure your body fat percentage using body fat callipers: At certain points of the body, such as the inner or outer upper arm, a fold of skin plus subcutaneous fat tissue is enveloped with the callipers. The challenge: The underlying muscle must not be included. The thickness of several folds of skin are measured with the callipers. A percentage is then determined from the sum of the values using a formula. The result is then the body fat percentage.
Measuring with a body fat calliper is relatively error-prone. Carried out by an experienced person, however, the method does deliver meaningful results.
Body fat scale
The manufacturers of so-called body fat scales promise exact values and a simple method of measurement. The measurement is in fact simple: Using the bioelectrical impedance method previously described, the device passes weak electrical impulses through the feet into the body, whereby the tissue resistance is measured. Fat provides a different resistance than, for example, muscles. The scale calculates the body fat percentage from the resistance, weight and body height. Nevertheless, the result is only an approximate value and is not precise. If you check your body fat percentage with such a scale on a regular basis, you should always measure under the same conditions, for example in the morning and on an empty stomach. In this way, the values are at least comparable.