People who tend to consistently weigh themselves and record the numbers that appear on the scale tend to lose weight, and keep it off, more successfully. But how accurate are body fat scales? Do special scales that target body fat specifically offer advantages over traditional scales?
Scales that measure body fat come in many different models, and they utilize a technology, bioelectrical impedance, in order to achieve an estimate of how much fat your body contains. As you step onto the special scale, electrical currents–which you won’t feel–pass through your legs. Because muscle contains more water, it conducts electricity more efficiently than fat. The more body fat you have, the greater the resistance. The scale then uses this information, and some other data, such as height, gender, weight, and age, and puts them into a formula to calculate body fat percentage.
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How Accurate Are Body Fat Scales?
A common problem with scales that measure body fat is that they tend to be inaccurate. The results are impacted by many different variables, including when your last meal was, when you previously exercised, how hydrated you are, and whether the scale itself is of high quality. Research has shown that different scales produce a wide variety of readings. These readings are also a lot different than typical methods of measuring fat.
The manuals that come with these devices even state that they are potentially not as accurate for athletes, the elderly, people who have osteoporosis, and children, as well as others. In fact, due to the inaccuracies, Consumer Reports has halted its tests of scales that measure body fat.
Are Body Fat Scales Really Necessary?
Whether you really need to understand your body fat measure at all is a debate among experts. While the general measurement of your weight can be tricky, because it doesn’t separate weight from fat versus weight from muscle, there is no universal standard for either men’s or women’s ideal body fat.
Where exactly the fat is distributed is also more important how much body fat there is, and you won’t read this information on a body fat scale. If you have extra fat in your abdominal area, this has been connected to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers. However, extra fat in the hips and thighs isn’t a concern for overall health and can even be beneficial.
Researchers claim that it may be useful to track any changes to your body fat over time. These numbers may also inspire you to hit the gym. Overall, knowing your measurement of fat is not a requirement.
Other Options to Measure Body Fat
If you’d like to know whether you have too much fat in your body, you can merely measure your weight. Your body mass index (BMI) calculates both your height and your weight and is a great option if you’re not muscular. You can find BMI calculators online.
If you’d like to know the exact percentage of your body fat, you can go to a professional. They may use underwater weighing, a Bod Pod, or DEXA scans to get results. If you’d like to find out your percentage in an accurate way, simply contact your doctor.