A Healthier U

By PEAK Health & Fitness

BODY COMPOSITION

Body composition is a measurement of a person’s fat mass and fat free (lean) mass. Testing your body composition can be a great way to set, monitor and reach realistic health and fitness goals. General measurements such as weight and BMI can be less specific in relation to a person’s general health and individual goals. Body composition tests are a great way to set a baseline before starting a routine or program and to track progress throughout a program. With any weight loss there will be some loss in lean body mass as well as fat mass. Body composition tests can help you monitor fat loss and muscle maintenance to help you to better reach your health and fitness goals.

Benefited University employees are eligible for no-cost body composition testing at PEAK Health and Fitness through the WellU program. For more information, visit health.utah.edu/peak .

METHODS OF TESTING BODY FAT

There are several different methods of testing body composition. The gold standard for accuracy, comfort and technology is the BOD POD. This is an egg shaped chamber that measures body composition through volume and pressure through air displacement. This test is considered very accurate (+ or – 2 percent), fast, easy and noninvasive. Another method that is offered is the skinfold measurement. The skinfold method of body composition analysis is fairly quick and moderately invasive. The thickness of a skinfold at seven different sites on the body is measured and used to calculate body fat percentage. This method can be accurate, however it is recommended that the same tester is used each time the test is performed.

FAT MASS

Abdominal (visceral) fat
Visceral fat is also known as organ fat or intra-abdominal fat. The fat is packed in between internal organs and torso. Studies have shown a strong correlation between central obesity and cardiovascular disease. Visceral fat is very metabolically active and is resistant to the anti-lipolytic effects of insulin. This means that it is continuously being broken down, circulating in the blood stream and being restored as fat. This process can increase triglyceride and insulin levels in the blood that can lead to cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Visceral fat is usually the first fat to be lost during weight loss.

Subcutaneous fat
Subcutaneous fat is found underneath the skin. This fat is less metabolically active and is broken down in the body only when needed. It is used for warmth and protection, as well as storage of extra energy.

Fat-free mass
Fat-free mass is comprised of all of the fat free elements of the body. Some examples of fat free elements include: skeletal muscle, bone and water. It is important to have adequate fat free mass, especially concerning skeletal muscle and bone density to help maintain activities of daily living and to help prevent diseases such as osteoporosis. It is important to eat adequate calories and use resistance training to maintain more fat free mass, especially during weight loss.

THE HOW, WHEN AND WHY OF WEIGHT LOSS

Weight loss is often emphasized as a beneficial endeavor in society and pop culture. However mere weight loss is not enough to ensure health benefits. A study looking at the prevalence of all-cause and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality in lean and obese and fit and unfit adult males show that being fit is more important than being lean in relation to lowering risk for all-cause and CVD mortality. From these studies it is shown that, with health as the primary goal, weight loss is not the most important factor in reaching that goal. If weight loss is the primary goal studies have shown that a combination of physical activity and a well maintained diet produce the best effect of a decrease in fat mass and a maintenance or increase in muscle mass. Not only is it easier to achieve the goal of weight loss with a combination of physical activity and diet, it is also easier to maintain the weight reduction once the goal has been reached.

Body Fat Norm Table for Women and Men

Women Men
<15% Risky (low body fat) <5%
15-18% Very lean 5-8%
19-22% Lean 9-12%
23-30% Moderate 13-20%
31-40% Excess fat 21-30%
>40% Risky (high body fat) >30%

Norm tables are common guidelines for the general population. For information specific to an individual please consult your health care professional.

BENEFITS OF MAINTAINING A HEALTHY BODY COMPOSITION

A healthy lifestyle including a well maintained diet and adequate physical activity can produce many health benefits and increase quality of life. Some of these health benefits include a decrease in risk for and improve conditions in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic disease, osteoporosis and a host of other diseases. Regular physical activity and maintenance of a healthy body composition can also improve ability to perform activities of daily life, increase energy and help to maintain cognitive function and decrease stress.

BASIC ACTIVITY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ACSM AND AHA

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association (AHA) suggest moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week or vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, three days a week and eight to 10 strength-training exercises, eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise two days a week. Moderate-intensity physical activity means working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat, yet still being able to carry on a conversation. Note that 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity may be necessary for weight loss or weight loss maintenance. The 30-minute recommendation is for the average healthy adult to maintain health and reduce the risk for chronic disease.

Go to PEAK’s Bod Pod page for more information or call 801-585-7325 to schedule an appointment.

1 C. D. Lee, S. N. Blair, and A. S. Jackson Cardiorespiratory fitness, body composition, and all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality in men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 69, No. 3, 373-380, March 1999
2 M.L. Pollock, G.A. Gaesser, J.D. Butcher, J.P. Despres, R.K. Dishman, B.A. Franklin, C.E. Garber. The Recommended Buality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cariorespiratory and Muscular Fitness, and Flexibility in Healthy Adults. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise Vol. 30 #6

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