Understanding body-fat percentage
Taking body-fat measurements is recognized as a solid method for measuring weight loss.
Body-fat percentage simply is the percentage of fat a body contains. If a person weighs 150 pounds and has 10 percent fat, it means that person’s body consists of 15 pounds fat and 135 pounds of lean body mass, which is bone, muscle, organ tissue, blood and everything else.
A certain amount of fat is essential to bodily functions. Fat regulates body temperature, cushions and insulates organs and tissues, and is the main form of the body's energy storage. The following table describes body-fat ranges and their associated categories:
Classification Women (% fat) Men (% fat)
Essential fat 10-12% 2-4%
Athletes 14-20% 6-13%
Fitness 21-24% 14-17%
Acceptable 25-31% 18-25%
Obese 32% or more 25% or more
Before deciding to lose weight, remember that “weight” consists of both lean body mass and body fat. Try to make weight-loss goals realistic, and remember — strive to keep the calorie-burning muscle and lose only the fat.
Fort Stewart’s Newman Fitness Center held an aerobicthon Jan. 10 to build healthy-lifestyle awareness and provide wellness education. Certified instructors led group fitness classes at the gym to get people moving and interested in aerobic exercises such as Zumba, yoga and kickboxing.
“The goal is to bring awareness to the Fort Stewart community about starting a healthy lifestyle and to also provide them with all the wellness resources available right here on post,” facility manager Devin Bradley said.
Fort Stewart offers an Army wellness center, the Winn Army Medical Center and four gyms on post for families to use as healthy resources. Military identification-cardholders can use these resources to learn about proper diet and exercise approaches to healthy lifestyles.
“About 80 percent of a healthy lifestyle is nutrition,” Bradely said. “It isn’t only about working out often; it is about eating healthy and keeping a healthy weight.”
Participants at the event could get their weight and height checked by a health educator at the Army wellness-center booth. They also calculated body-mass indexes and body-fat percentages.
“BMI is a calculation using your height and weight to determine whether you have a healthy weight according to your height,” health educator Heather Glow said. “Body-fat percentages tell you the range of fat in your body.”
Body-fat percentages are based on age and gender, while body-mass index is based on height and weight using a mathematical formula that people can calculate on their own.
“We want to see females with a body-fat percentage less than 30 percent and males with a percentage less than 20 percent,” Glow said.
To calculate BMI, multiply height in meters times height in meters, then divide weight in kilograms by that number. Free BMI calculators also are available online.
Normal BMI ranges between 18.5 and 24.9.
“If your number is too high, you can be at cardiovascular-health risk,” Glow said. “The fat is pressing on the internal organs and is causing your blood pressure (to) rise. … This is why we need to do screenings to make sure people know where they stand.”
At the Army wellness center, participants can receive stress-management information, physical-fitness assessments, smoking-cessation assessments and metabolic screenings.
A metabolic screening assesses a patient’s calorie intake while at rest and during exercise.
“We can assess them to see how many calories they need to take in order to support exercise and normal daily activities,” Glow said.
The wellness center also offers body-composition assessments using equipment like the bodpod, a large pod participants enter for 30 minutes, which measures composition using air displacement. This, plus other resources, can assess a patient’s obesity risk.
Other screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar can be used to assess health risks as well.
“Cholesterol should be less than 200 and blood sugar should be less than 120,” Army public-health nurse Becky Shattuck said. “It is important to know your numbers.”
Meanwhile, the performance triad program is used to promote improved health and wellness.
“We are switching our gears more toward prevention through sleep, activity and nutrition, which is known as the triad,” Shattuck said. “I think this is a great thing.”
The program helps soldiers achieve and maintain optimal physical fitness and health.
The triad starts with soldiers getting seven to eight hours of sleep every day. Sleep is important for staying physically and mentally ready.
Activity also is important for overall health. Proper technique during physical exercise is key to preventing injuries.
“This push for the triad can help prevent a lot of injuries we see in soldiers,” Shattuck said. “If we can improve in these areas, we wouldn’t have to be at the doctor’s office so much.”
Exercise always goes hand in hand with diet. The nutrition aspect of the triad focuses on maintaining a healthy weight and planning meals around physical training.
“If you can improve all those areas, your whole life is improved,” Shattuck said. “Your work is better so you are a better soldier, a better husband or wife. … It just spreads through your whole life, basically.”