Ways & How

How to Measure Body Fat

How to Measure Body Fat

How to measure body fat is important to know because getting on a scale is not an accurate way to measure the amount of body fat. Fat is important to maintain a level of health. Fat has useful functions in the body, primarily in providing energy so that the protein intake is utilized to build and repair body tissues. Fat also serves to protect internal organs and help maintain body temperature. However, too much fat on the body is detrimental to health as it can make a person susceptible to diseases, such as diabetes, arthritis, gallstones, skin problems, heart ailments, etc. Keeping the right balance of fat is key to good health. There are several ways to get an accurate reading of body fat, some expensive and requiring a specialized apparatus. One such method is the DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry), which requires a body scanner. Another is Hydrostatic Weighing, which involves dunking in a special water tank. Still another, less expensive though not as accurate as the first two, is the BIA (Bioelectric Impedance Analysis), which uses a special device or weighing scale equipped with BIA capacity.

But a very simple method of measuring body fat doesn’t need special equipment; for this, just tape measure will do.


    H = Height. If it’s been some time since you last measured your height, you may want to do so again without shoes.

    WM = Waist Measurement. For males, this is the navel area. For females, measure around the narrowest width, or put the tape measure around the place where a natural crease forms when you bend sideways. When taking the waist measurement, don’t suck in your stomach so as not to get a false reading.

    NC = Neck Circumference. Put the tape measure around the nape and down to the larynx.

    HM = Females need to take a hip measurement, as well. Put the tape measure around the fullest part of the hips and the biggest part of the buttocks, making sure the tape measure is horizontally straight; that is, parallel to the ground, not sloping.

  2. Calculate your body fat using the following formulas. Note: Log stands for the logarithm with 10 as number base, such that Log 10 = 1 or Log 100 = 2.

    Measurements in Inches, Male

    Body fat = 86.010 x Log (WM – NC) – 70.041 x Log H + 36.76

    Measurements in Inches, Female

    Body fat = 163.205 x Log (WM + HM – NC) – 97.684 x Log H – 78.387

Be aware, though, that this method of measuring body fat is not the most accurate there is. Unlike the other methods stated above that require specialized equipment, the simpler way detailed here is at best only an approximate estimate, given that so few points of measurement are taken. However, if you take care to always measure under the same conditions as you did at first (for example, in the morning after getting out of bed and before having breakfast), then you can get a somewhat fair reading of your progress of fat gained or loss over a period of time. It is trickier to determine the amount of fat in muscular people. Muscle adds bulk and the tape measure does not distinguish between muscle and fat in the body. But you can take a good look at yourself in the mirror and judge whether what you have is muscle or fat; that shouldn’t be too difficult nor is it too hard to learn how to measure body fat.


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