By Isabella Broggini
When it comes to keeping track of progress towards desired fitness goals, many people tend to use their scale weight (and how much it is decreasing or increasing over time) to determine whether or not they are successfully reaching their goals. However, other lesser-known measurements are actually more effective in helping you accurately track your headway. Today you will learn what each of these measurements are and why it is important to keep track of them when working towards a desired physical outcome in fitness.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
Other than body weight, body mass index (or BMI) is another measurement that people are aware of and occasionally keep track of when trying to lose weight. The importance of BMI in determining the health and fitness of an individual is based on the fact that a person’s height should be proportional to their weight. This formula dictates that a shorter person of healthy weight should generally weigh less than a taller person. The easiest way to calculate your BMI is to use an online BMI calculator. For adults 20 years and older, a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered healthy, whereas a BMI less than 18.5 is considered underweight, and a BMI above 24.9 is considered overweight. A person is considered obese if he or she has a BMI of 30 or higher. A person’s risk for developing chronic diseases increases at or above a BMI of 25. The problem with BMI is that it’s only a rough estimation based on a person’s height and weight, and it does not differentiate between the weight of a person derived from muscle mass versus the weight of a person derived from body fat. The trouble with this is that a person of shorter stature who weighs a lot due to above-average muscle mass may appear to be overweight according to his/her BMI measurement, even if he/she is perfectly fit and healthy.
Body Fat Percentage
Body Fat Percentage is often confused with Body Mass Index, but the two are entirely different. Your body fat percentage is simply the percentage of your weight that consists of body fat. Knowing and tracking this measurement can be a lot more useful than calculating your BMI or tracking your scale weight in helping you keep track of weight loss and the change in your body composition, because you will be able to directly see the amount of fat that you are losing or gaining, without confusing it with gain or loss in muscle mass. You can use this online calculator to find your body fat percentage, or schedule a free consultation with one of our trainers for a more accurate reading. For males, ideal body fat percentage ranges between 6 to 13 percent (for very athletic people) and 14 to 24 percent (for the average person). A male would be considered obese if his body fat percentage is above 25 percent. For females, the body fat percentage for very athletic individuals ranges between 14 and 20 percent, whereas the average female will have a body fat percentage between 21 and 31 percent. A female is considered obese if her body fat percentage is above 32 percent. On average, as we age, our range for healthy body fat percentage will also increase.
Your muscle mass is the combined weight (in pounds or kilos) of your smooth muscles, skeletal muscles, and water contained in the muscles. Contrary to popular belief, increasing muscle mass isn’t only important for those who are looking to bulk; building muscle mass is also crucial for those who want to lose weight. Having more muscle mass will automatically increase your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), or the amount of calories you burn at rest. Therefore, increasing your muscle mass with a regular strength training program, will allow you to burn more calories even when you’re not working out, which in turn will help you lose weight. Follow these steps to calculate your muscle mass percentage.
Calculating your Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR) is a great way to estimate how fat is distributed throughout your body. You can determine this measurement by dividing your waist circumference by your hip circumference. The WHR measurement is important not only to track weight loss, but also because individuals who carry more weight around their middle (visceral fat) than around their hips, are at a higher risk of certain health conditions, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Men may be at higher risk for developing these health conditions if their WHR measurement is 1.0 or higher, whereas women’s likelihood of developing these health conditions increases if their WHR is 0.86 or higher. Intuitively, as our WHR measurement decreases, so does our risk of developing these health conditions. In order to keep your WHR at appropriate levels (for men, that would be 0.95 or lower, and for women 0.80 or lower) it is important to get regular exercise as well as to maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
Calculating the above measurements and monitoring them as you progress through a training program will allow you to determine whether you are on the right track to achieving your desired weight loss goal (if weight loss is what you are working towards). If you find that these measurements are not changing over time in the way that you would like them to, it may be time to switch up your workout routine or pay more attention to your diet. If you need help and don’t know where to start, scheduling a session with a nutritionist and/or personal trainer will aid you in discovering what will work best for you in achieving your desired fitness goals.