Body Fat Percentage and BMI

Having excess body fat is a very common and potentially dangerous medical condition in human beings today. It is potentially dangerous because it predisposes the affected person to diseases like hypertension, diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, polycystic ovarian syndrome, non-alcoholic steato-hepatitis and even cirrhosis of the liver! These are just to mention a few of the medical hazards that can be caused by excessive fat in the body. Between the genders, women have to be even more careful with weight gain because they have a greater percentage of fat in the body than men. That’s just the way nature made it.

If you want to know whether you are overweight or obese, you should calculate your BODY MASS INDEX; also known as BMI. It is really simple to do using this formula:

Your WEIGHT in Kilograms divided by your HEIGHT in centimeters (squared) i.e. WEIGHT (kg)/HEIGHT(cm)2.

The normal range of BMI is 18-24.9. If you are above 24.9, you are overweight and greater than 29.9 is the beginning of obesity.If you fall into these categories, you need to lose weight in order to avoid the above mentioned diseases.

Another way to find out if you have excess fat is to calculate your body fat percentage, This is the percentage of total fat in the body in comparison with the rest of the body mass. The body mass is made up of tissues, organs and fluid such as bone, muscle, connective tissues (tendon, ligaments etc.), brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, skin, blood, water, just to mention some.

Total body fat can be divided into healthy (necessary) fat and unhealthy (unnecessary) fat. The healthy body fat is important for life as well as reproductive functions. You need a certain amount of fat in your body to protect your organs, keep warm and even to menstruate, conceive and bear children. Ever wondered why really thin people or those with anorexia nervosa have problems with their reproductive cycles? There’s your answer.

The unhealthy body fat is what we should be worried about and aim to reduce. It is the excess fat in your adipose tissues, more common in the waist area in both men and women and in the hips and buttocks in women. It is in other parts of the body as well such as the arms, thighs and upper part of the back. Unfortunately, the percentage is higher in women than in men for the reason of reproductive function. Body fat percentage is a reflection of how fit you are: the higher it is, the lower your level of fitness and vice versa.

The question on your mind right now is probably ”WHAT IS THE HEALTHY BODY FAT PERCENTAGE?” Your answer is this: it differs between men and women. It should be between 8 and 14% in men and between 20 and 25% in women. If yours is higher than these ranges for men and women, it most likely means that you are not fit health wise. It should be noted that the values above are the normal values for TOTAL body fat in men and women. The normal percentage ranges for necessary (essential, healthy) body fat is 3-5% and 8-12% for men and women respectively. This essential fat is the minimum a human being is required to have for bodily functions. An overview reference table for total body fat according to Health Check Systems is presented below:

Description – Women – Men
Recommended amount – 20-25% – 8-14%
Adults in United States, average – 22-25% – 15-19%
Obese – 30+% – 25+%
Athletes 16-20% – 6-13%