Measuring & Monitoring Your Bodyfat

measuring body fatLosing bodyfat is the aim of many people's training programs. The body needs a certain amount of body fat to function properly, too low levels can result in health problems. Too high levels also have their health problems - certain conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure are associated with high levels of body fat. It is important to measure and monitor your body fat levels to ensure you are at the best level in terms of health and fitness.

How to measure body fat

There are many ways of monitoring your body fat levels. You can indirectly monitor it using body weight and or girth measures and calculate body fat levels based a assumptions. It is better to directly measure body fat level such as with a skinfold caliper. This measures the thickness of the skin and underlying fat. Assumptions are still made to extrapolate the calculation to a whole body measurement from samples at different sites around the body.

There are numerous other options to measure body fat, though most of these require more sophisticated and expensive equipment. Other methods include:

What level should you aim for

The level of body fat is measured in % of total body weight. The table below gives recommended healthy levels for the general population, and also recommended levels for athletes, which a lower level is aimed for due to the performance benefits of a lower level of excess body fat.

general population athletes
males females males females
< 12 < 17 < 7 < 12
12 - 21 17 - 28 7 - 15 12 - 25
moderately overweight
21 - 26 28 - 33
> 26 > 33 > 15 > 25

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Fitness Extra

If you are new to exercise, consider getting a medical assessment before doing too much. Fill out a PARQ to see if you are ready. The best thing you could do is perform a warm-up before each fitness session, which should include some stretching. When training, following correct exercise technique can help reduce injuries and maximise fitness gains.

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