A certain amount of fat is essential to bodily functions. Fat regulates body temperature, provides some cushioning and insulation for organs and tissues, and aids in reproductive functions. This is called essential fat. Women have more essential fat than men.
But there is a limit to how much fat is healthy.
Our bodies consist of two parts: lean body tissue (bones, skin, blood, etc.) and body fat. I really recommend that people are aware, good or bad, of their body fat percentage.
You can have your body fat measured by calipers (little fat pinchers), or a bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) scale (available at many stores). (Be aware that the BIA scale can be misleading because hydration, temperature and other factors can change the results.)
Men are considered fit if they have 14 percent to 17 percent body fat. They are considered average at 18 percent to 24 percent body fat. Women are considered fit if they have 21 percent to 24 percent body fat. Average is 25 percent to 31 percent.
For example, a woman who weighs 150 pounds and has 30 percent body fat has 105 pounds of lean tissue and 45 pounds of body fat.
There are easier tests to try on yourself that will give you some idea if you need to get busy this December instead of waiting till January. Two of these are waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) and body mass index (BMI).
In the waist-to-hip measurement, you are really looking at where the fat is distributed. Doctors now know that where one carries fat can be a predictor for diseases such as heart disease or diabetes.
In BMI, you are looking at the ratio of weight to height.
OK, this may be a little heavy for a Sunday read. Stay with me.
For the WHR, measure your waist at the smallest part and your hips at the widest part and then get out your calculator. Divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement and you have your ratio.
Low risk for men is below .9, and for women below .8. Anything above that is moderate risk or more. As with any test, there can be some exceptions for build and proportion, but generally this is a great way to see where you fall.
Next is the BMI test. This measures your weight in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared. I know we hate math, but it isn't so bad.
Hint: 1 pound = .45 kilograms, and 1 inch = 2.54 centimeters.
If you weigh 135 pounds, multiply that by .45 to equal 61 kilograms. If you are 5-feet-3-inches (63 inches), multiply that by 2.54 to get 160 centimeters, or 1.6 meters.
Still with me?
Then square the 1.6 to get 2.56. Lastly, divide 61 kilograms by 2.56 meters and voila! you get a BMI of 23.8.
The normal range is 18.5-24.9, and overweight is 25.0-29.9. If you are above 29.9, then there are different levels of obese.
If you are still reading this and haven't dozed off, congratulations.
And if you actually got a calculator and worked out your numbers, hallelujah! Know your body fat numbers, and take charge of your health.
Ann Angell is the program coordinator and a certified personal trainer at the YMCA of Calhoun County.