Understanding Body Composition

Body composition is not something you do, like 10 push-ups or 50 sit-ups. Body composition is something you are, but it has a lot to do with what you do. Basically, your body is composed of two types of tissues known as fat weight and lean weight. Fat weight is the fat stored in fat cells throughout the body. Lean weight includes all other tissues, such as organs, bones, blood, skin, and muscle. Approximately half of our lean weight is muscle which, along with fat, is most likely to change during our adult years.

As we age, we typically lose about five pounds of muscle and add about 15 pounds of fat every decade of life. Excess body fat is a major health risk associated with many medical problems including low back pain, type II diabetes, various forms of cancer, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Most people understand this, and half of all Americans are presently on low calorie diet plans to reduce unwanted fat. Unfortunately, dieting alone has a dismal record of success, with over 90 percent of dieters regaining all of this fat weight within one year. Even worse, about one-quarter of the weight lost through dieting is muscle, further reducing this vital tissue and resting metabolic rate.[1]

A definition of a healthy body composition changes according to your gender and age. For example, women in their 20s should aim for a body fat percentage of 16 to 24 percent, while men in their 20s should have lower body fat levels — 7 to 17 percent, according to guidelines developed by the American College of Sports Medicine.
As you age, it’s normal for your body fat to increase a little — a woman in her 50s, for example, should try to maintain a body fat level of 22 to 31 percent. It can be hard to get an accurate body fat measurement at home, but your doctor or trained health professional can help you determine your body composition. Keep in mind that you can have an unhealthy body composition even if you have a healthy weight.

Remember — when it comes to health, every little bit counts, and even a modest weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of your body weight significantly lowers your obesity-related disease risk. If you’re not sure where to begin, consult nutrition and fitness professionals for help with your diet and exercise regimens.[2]

Another component of body composition is essential fat, which is the minimal amount of fat necessary for normal physiological function. For males and females, essential fat values are typically considered to be 3% and 12%, respectively. Fat above the minimal amount is referred to as nonessential fat. It is generally accepted that a range of 10-22 percent for men and 20-32 percent for women is considered satisfactory for good health.

So, what can you do with your results? The results from your body composition assessment can be used to identify risks, personalize your exercise program or evaluate how well your current exercise and nutrition program is working for you. If you find that you are within a healthy range, continue your exercise and dietary behaviors. If you find that your body composition has room for improvement, take a closer look at what you can do to make positive changes to your current level of activity and diet. Use more than just the scale to assess body composition. Remember, it is possible for the number on the scale to remain constant but experience changes in fat mass and lean mass.” [3]


[2] http://www.livestrong.com/…/332633-the-advantages-of-a-hea…/