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A beginner's guide to body composition

A beginner's guide to body composition

Body composition

When it comes to having a healthy body, how you look on the outside isn’t nearly as important as what’s going on inside.

But how do you judge what you can’t see? Well, that’s where body composition scales come in.

These clever machines will tell you all sorts of important things about yourself, from your BMI to your body fat percentage, muscle mass, visceral fat levels and more.

Here’s our handy beginner’s guide to what these simple metrics mean for you and your health…

Body mass index (BMI)

If you’re invested in your health and wellbeing then you’ve probably heard of ‘BMI’.

Your BMI, or ‘Body Mass Index’, is a standardised ratio of weight to height and is widely used as a general indicator of health. It can be calculated by dividing your weight (in kilograms) by the square of your height (in metres). But if, like us, maths aren’t your strong point then never fear… Body composition scales work this all out for you!

BMI isn’t the be all and end all. Don’t forget, muscle weighs more than fat – so the more muscle you have, the heavier you’ll be, but this doesn’t make you unhealthy.

In general terms, however, maintaining a weight that’s roughly in line with the recommendation for your height is a useful rule of thumb. A BMI score of between 18.5 and 24.9 is generally considered within the healthy range.

There’s no great secret to improving your BMI; it’s all the good stuff like regular exercise and eating a balanced diet.

Body fat percentage

Not to be confused with body fat mass (which is the actual total weight of fat in your body) a body fat percentage reading will tell you the proportion of fat to your total body mass.

Body fat is essential for maintaining the body’s temperature, cushioning joints and protecting our internal organs. However, too much fat can lead to health problems.

Your recommended body fat percentage varies dependent on your age and gender. Luckily, body composition scales will take these factors into account when you use them, and let you know whether you fall within a healthy range for your circumstances.

Again, regular exercise and a balanced diet is key for achieving this.

Visceral fat

Sometimes described as ‘hidden’ fat, visceral fat is located deep in your abdominal area. Its job is to protect your vital organs, but too much of it can put us at risk of conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Research tells us that while our weight and body fat might remain the same as we age, the distribution of fat in our body changes - making it more likely to shift to the abdominal area.

A rating between 1 and 12 on the body composition scales indicates a healthy level of visceral fat – so try to keep within this range.

How do you achieve this? Yes, you guessed it! Focus on regular exercise, a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle habits. High levels of visceral fat can be linked to various lifestyle factors such as weight, diet, smoking and even lack of sleep.

Total body water percentage

What this reading tells you is pretty self-explanatory; your total body water percentage is the total amount of fluid in your body expressed as a percentage of total your weight.

It’s hardly a groundbreaking insight that water is an essential element for our bodies, yet many of us still overlook the importance of staying hydrated.

Over half of the body is made up of H2O, and water also regulates our body temperature. We lose water continuously over time, whether through sweat, breathing or urine, so vital we replace it.

Being well hydrated will help concentration levels, sports performance and general wellbeing.

Experts recommend you should drink at least two litres of fluid every day, preferably water or other low-calorie drinks. Remember though, if you are engaging in exercise then it’s important to increase your fluid intake.

Basal metabolic rate (BMR)

Don’t get too excited, but did you know you burn calories by doing absolutely nothing?!

Yes, even sleeping, sitting and breathing requires energy – and your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the daily minimum level of calories your body uses when at total rest. The higher your BMR, the more calories you burn at rest compared to someone with a lower BMR.

Everybody’s BMR differs as we’re all built differently and factors including age, gender, height, weight and mass, and overall health all play their part and change over time.

Your BMR is a great starting point when consulting with your GP or fitness professional about diet and nutrition. It will give you a better understanding of how many calories you need to achieve your goals.

Metabolic age

Feeling older than you look? By stepping onto the body composition scales you can discover how ‘old’ you are on the inside!

Your ‘metabolic age’ is a measure of how efficiently your body is functioning and is based on your basal metabolic rate (see above).

Metabolic age (or MA) gives us valuable information that a mirror (or a birth certificate) can’t, providing a deeper insight into how healthy we are.

Got a metabolic age lower than the number of candles on your last birthday cake? Good job! You’re likely on the right track. If your MA is older than your real age then becoming more active will help take years off you.

In summary, scales aren’t just about weight and they don’t have to be scary. In fact, they can be a useful guide to positive next steps to improve your strength, fitness and overall health.

You’ll find TANITA body composition scales in most of our gyms and they are pretty straightforward to use, but just speak to a member of our team is you’d like some help.

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Posted on Friday 23rd February 2024

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