What’s the best way to measure body composition?

Four ways you can measure this

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Body composition is the ratio of fat to muscle to water and bone in your body. 

There are four ways you can measure body composition;

  • BMI
  • DEXA scanner, which will scan your body and tell you what percentage you are fat
  • Good old-fashioned scales
  • Skin fold caliper measurements that measure the amount of fat that you can pinch in certain areas of the body.

These measures are all fine and well, and sometimes you do need a start point; how much do I currently weigh, how much fat’s in my body, these are important, particularly where that fat is located. If it’s around the middle, then it’s around the organs, and that’s an unhealthy place to carry fat. But I prefer to focus on how you feel, and that’s the question I always ask people when they want to know more about their body composition.

If you are plainly carrying too much weight for health reasons, then that’s obviously something you want to address. Equally, it might be a lack of muscle, and you want to build up more muscle to prevent falls and just be more functionally fit. But how do you feel? I mean, look in the mirror. Are you happy with what you see? Based on your perception of what you see, not what you think other people want to see or compared to fitness models and whatever else it might be, do you feel happy with how you are?

In the context of the fact that to get a very rich and shredded body, whether that’s for men or women, you must make a great many sacrifices. There’s a lot of food you can’t eat, a lot of drinks you can’t go near, and for most of us, it just isn’t desirable or necessary to look that shredded. Have a look in the mirror. Are you happy with what you see? Are you happy with what you feel?

Are you functionally fit? That’s a real key one for me. Can you lift your suitcase off the conveyor belt or off the escalator or the carousel in the airports? Can you carry shopping? Do you get exhausted when you carry a laptop bag home from work? These are all things that I’ve heard of. It’s important that you are functionally fit. Are you able to keep up with your friends and your family? Do you have enough energy to do what you want in the day? Do you have good mental health? Is your body composition affecting how you sleep or how you feel about yourself in an adverse way?

These are all important aspects of body composition. Rather than looking at what the scales say, which can be something to beat yourself around the head with, or worrying about a DEXA scan, unless you’re very overweight, focus on what you can achieve with your body, rather than the aesthetics of how it looks, something I talk about in my TedX talk, Why Fitness is More Important Than Weight.

If you’ve got questions or feedback, drop me an email to [email protected].

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Leanne Spencer is an entrepreneur, coach, TEDx Speaker, author of Remove the Guesswork, and founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. Bodyshot is a health and fitness consultancy that helps busy professionals get more energy by removing the guesswork around their health, fitness and nutrition. Visit or email [email protected] to register your interest in our services and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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