What is Body Fat Percentage?

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  • Written By: Harriette Halepis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 January 2020
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By dividing a person's weight by the weight of body fat on that person, the body fat percentage is determined. This percentage includes two types of fat: stored fat and essential fat. Once a person has gained a body fat percentage total, a calculated nutritional and fitness routine can be devised.

Since stored fat and essential fat have very different functions, the purpose of these fats should be understood before attempting any kind of exercise regime. The term "essential fat" refers to the fat that a person must have in order to live a healthy life. Since women have childbearing capabilities, females often have a higher percentage of essential fat than men. Contrastingly, the term "stored fat" refers to the amount of tissue-protecting fat that a person has.

While it is necessary for all humans to have some protective stored fat, too much stored fat can lead to certain health problems. Thus, calculating one's body fat percentage is an good way to determine whether or not a restrictive diet is necessary. Some medical experts believe that calculating a person's fitness level according to body fat percentage is ideal. Others believe that using a Body Mass Index (BMI) scale is a better way to determine one's fitness level.


The Body Mass Index is largely used around the world to determine whether or not a person is in good physical health. In order to calculate one's BMI, one's weight must be divided by one's height squared. The number that is gained from this mathematical equation then determines whether or not a person is physically fit. Essentially, a number that is between 25 and 30.1 places a person within the "overweight" category, while anyone exceeding 30.1 is considered obese, and any number under 25 is considered normal weight.

Even though the BMI has been used to calculate a person's physical fitness level since it was invented around 1972, this index does not take into account the amount of fat that a person has. Many medical experts believe that neglecting to consider one's fat levels within the BMI equation produces a number that cannot be relied upon.

Whether or not the body fat percentage equation is better than the BMI equation is debatable, though a person's BMI is easier to calculate, since this calculation can be done without medical help. In order to calculate one's body fat percentage, various medical tests including X-rays and infrared probing must be administered. To date, both the body fat percentage equation and the BMI equation are used to determine an individual's physical fitness level.



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What about height loss due to osteoporosis? How do we figure our BMI?

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