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What is a Digital Body Fat Caliper?

Licia Morrow
Licia Morrow

Body fat calipers measure the body mass index, or BMI, of an individual by comparing how much of a person’s weight is composed of fat versus bone, water, muscle, and other tissue. Fat calipers are shaped like a clamp with a sliding scale. A digital body fat caliper is also shaped like a clamp, but has a digital screen, instead of a sliding scale, for helping to calculate BMI.

An electronic body fat caliper can be used by gym trainers, doctors, or any individual who wishes to know his or her BMI. To use a digital body fat caliper, men will measure the chest, abdomen, and thigh. Women will measure the triceps, the mid-section, and the thigh. The clamp is placed on a fold of skin and squeezed gently. The digital screen will then calculate fat measurements of the skin folds, and the BMI will appear on the digital screen.


Some digital calipers are fairly simple, while others can store the measurement profiles of several people, and use noises or lights to help ensure proper pressure, placement, and measurement. Most models come with a fat percentage chart to help individuals understand whether or not they are in healthy fat range. A digital body fat caliper can be purchased at sports or fitness shops, online, and sometimes at drugstores.

A bathroom scale used for weight measurement only gives an individual information about how much the body weighs. Standard and digital body fat calipers, however, can help individuals learn their body fat percentage, which gives a greater understanding of overall health. For example, two people might weigh 150 pounds (68 kilograms) each, but the one with the lower BMI would be considered healthier because the overall composition is more muscle, and less fat. Scales cannot tell the difference between the person with 150 pounds (68 kilograms) of high fat content, and the person with the same weight but higher muscle content.

Focusing on the percentage of fat in the body can help dieters and exercisers create appropriate goals, which can help them reach a higher peak of fitness, not just weight loss, and avoid problems such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Often, simply losing a number of pounds from the body is not the way to greater fitness. A digital body fat caliper can help to ensure that an individual is losing fat through diet and exercise, not fat and muscle. Often, when a person sees a loss of pounds on the scale, he or she considers this a success. A digital body fat caliper might show another side to this scenario. If the person’s BMI has gone down, but they have also lost some of their lean muscle mass, weight loss can actually slow because muscle burns fat.

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