Body Composition

Body composition is used to describe the percentages of fat, bone and muscle in human bodies. In this article we are talking about percentage of fat in the body.   Excess body fat can be associated with hypertension, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, stroke, coronary heart disease, and hyperlipidemia.   Approximately one-third of Americans today are considered over-weight or obese. As you may know, body fat can vary due to age, sex, and genetics.  Women tend to have higher body fat percentage than men.   To determine some potential risk factors for some people a Body Mass Index is calculated. BMI is used to assess weight relative to height. BMI fails to distinguish between body fat, muscle mass, or bone which can sometimes result in high BMI. 

Common ways to test body fat:

Skin Fold Calipers:  measure skin folds on various body parts to calculate total body fat

Underwater (Hydrostatic) weighing:  The person being measured is submerged into a water tank in a special chair with a weight belt attached to their waist.  A technician repeats the procedure many times then calculates body density.

Bioelectrical impedance:  A small amount of electrical current is delivered through the body to calculate total body water in lean tissue and muscle.  Fat contains no water so body fat percentage is based on the difference between your body weight and lean tissue. 

Here at MSU Recreational Sports and Fitness we have a trained, certified staff that offers caliper body comp testing. Keep an eye-out for body comp workshops we will be offering in October!

Source: ACSMs Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription.  Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2010. sixth edition.


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