Determining Body Composition

A person’s body weight consists of fat and fat-free weight (lean body weight).  The percent of body weight composed of  fat is called your percent body fat. It is best determined in the laboratory.  The most accurate ways to determine ones percent body fat is from surface measurements made with skin calipers or hydrostatic (under water)weighing.

Using Skin calipers you measure the skinfold thickness and substitute the data into a formula.  Skinfolds are grasped between the thumb and forefinger.  The caliper are applied about 1/2 an inch from the fingers.  The calipers go on about as deep as the fold is wide.  Take the measurement, release, and repeat until your measurement  is consistent.  You measure the chest, abdomen and thigh for males and the triceps, iliac crest (hip area) and tight for females.

Hydrostatic weighing can be determined in two ways.  Both  must be done in a laboratory.  The individual gets into a big tub and sits on a chair that is suspended in the water.   One could measure the weight of the water displaced by the body or the weight of the body when completely submerged.  This method must be done in a laboratory.  Fewer technical problems are encountered using the body totally submerged.  The only problem is the lungs have to be nearly deflated (maximal expiration) during the under water weighting with a slight correction for the residual air left in the lungs.

Body fat of the average adult male is between 15-17%.  The average female is about 25%.  Studies have found the average male runner has between 6.3 and 7.5% body fat.  While the average female runners as between 15.2 and 19.2 % body fat.


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