Should You Monitor Your Body Fat & Body Water Percentage?

The Tanita company has a scale that not only tells you your weight, but also your body fat and body water percentages. Is this important? ELDR Technology Editor Andy Walker thinks so, and he tells you why.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Traditional weight vs. height charts are designed around the average person. Of course we all know we're not average.

Based on those charts, I should be 60 to 70 lbs lighter for my height. But even when I ran a marathon five years ago, I was only 40 to 50 lbs lighter (And even then my family begged me to put some weight on. They said I looked ill.).

There's no way I could get down 70 lbs. Not without shaving all my body hair, trimming my nails and dispensing with a limb.

If you find yourself in this situation, consider getting a body fat scale, like the Tanita Body Fat Monitor/Scale I was sent by (though you can also get them from most fitness retailers and department stores). The gadget provides you with a much more realistic view of your weight as it pertains to your health.

The scale is a conventional looking device that you stand on with a digital LCD screen. However, it reports more than your weight. The scale also calculates your body fat percentage and as an added bonus, you body water percentage.

Here's how it works. First, you program it with your age, height and gender. There are four toe-powered buttons to tap this info in. Four members of your family can each assign their own button.

Once this is done, toe tap your button and the device will review the info on the screen then set itself to zero prompting you to get on it. Then you stand on the device placing your feet on the four electrodes on its surface.

The device reports your weight then in a few seconds calculates your body fat percentage and your body water percentage. It does this by running a painless electrical current through your body. (It's not only painless, but you don't feel it at all.) Note that pacemaker wearers and anyone that has had a medical device surgically implanted should not use this scale.

The device calculates body composition based upon the speed at which the signal passes through the body. The current passes more easily through lean muscle than fat and even easier through water and the scale uses this info to calculate the results.

In my case it reported my body fat at a fluctuating 24 to 27 percent. The body fat varies based on your hydration level, so after vigorous exercise you should appear leaner but of course, you aren't really thinner, your just dehydrated.

According to the American Dietetic Association, men should have 15 to 18 percent body fat and should women have 20 to 25 percent body fat. (Healthy male athletes might be as low as 5 to 12 percent body fat, and healthy female athletes could be as low as 10 to 20 percent). The total body water percentage for men should be around 55% and for women 51%. This seems like a lot, but lean muscle mass contains 75% water, body fat is 25%, bone 22% and lean muscle mass 75%.

As you can see I have a ways to go. But it means that I am healthy at a higher weight than what the weight/height charts suggest. Of course this works both ways. If you are a healthy weight now, but the device reports your body fat is too high, then you need to get to the gym to build some muscle mass and get that fat percentage down.

Approximate price:$40

More info:
Where to buy: and major department stores and fitness outlets.

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