The amount of body fat contained in the body is often represented as a percent of the total body mass. It is common to measure body fat percentage using the skinfold measurement method, though there are many alternative methods. Here is a simple method using images to estimate body fat levels.
A Visual Estimation Method
The simplest method to determine if someone is overweight is to just look at them. This is very subjective of course, and a poor alternative to actually measuring someone, but sometimes this is all that is possible. When you look at someone, you quickly know that someone is overweight and needs to lose weight, and when they do lose a significant amount of weight it is usually easy to see. Trained observers with repeated exposure to different body types can be good at estimating body fat (Sterner & Burke, 1986). Using images as presented below can help make a more objective judgment. This method could be improved by using a computer algorithm to estimate body fat levels using digital photographs, rather than a trained eye (Affuso et al., 2018).
purpose: to estimate body fat level by visual inspection and comparison to an image chart
equipment: comparison images
procedure: It is best if the participant is stripped down to minimal clothing. Compare their body shape to the images below and select the closest approximation.
target population: suitable for non-athletic populations, and those in which physically taking skinfold measurement is not appropriate.
reliability: to improve reliability, the same person should assess the participant each time. A larger range of images would also improve reliability.
advantages: a score can be achieved without any physical contact.
- Blanchard JM, Ward GM, Kryzywicki HJ, Canham JE. A visual appraisal method for estimating body composition in humans. Presidio of San Francisco, Report No.81: 1979.
- Eckerson JM, Housh TJ, Johnson GO. The validity of visual estimations of percent body fat in lean males. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1992;24(5):615–8.
- Sterner TG, Burke EJ. Body fat assessment: A comparison of visual estimation and skinfold techniques. Physician Sportsmed. 1986;14:101–7.
- Affuso O, Pradhan L, Zhang C, et al. A method for measuring human body composition using digital images. PLoS One. 2018;13(11):e0206430. Published 2018 Nov 5.
- Skinfold measurement — calipers are used to measure the thickness of the skin at a range of sites around the body.
- Body weight
- Waist girth
- Methods for determining percent body fat
- Fitness Testing the overweight and obese
- About body composition
- List of Body Composition Measurement Methods
- What is the most effective method for losing weight?
- Videos of Anthropometric Tests including Skinfold Testing.
- Skinfold caliper store