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What is a Healthy Body Fat Percentage for Teenagers?

by
author image Mandy Ross
Melissa Ross began writing professionally in 2009, with work appearing in various online publications. She has been an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer since 2006. Ross holds a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and a Master of Science in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.
What is a Healthy Body Fat Percentage for Teenagers?
Two teenagers running up stairs. Photo Credit Ronnie Kaufman/Blend Images/Getty Images

The two-factor model of body composition divides body weight into fat and lean tissue such as bone, muscle and organs. Body fat percentage represents the amount of fat contributing to total body weight and indicates fitness level. Due to age differences, teenagers and adults follow different body fat recommendations. Knowing healthy body fat ranges for teenagers allows you to evaluate aspects of physical fitness.

Facts

Body composition refers to your body-fat to fat-free mass ratio. According to “Nutrition for Health Fitness and Sport” by Melvin H. Williams, too little or too much body fat leads to health problems. Low body fat negatively affects immune, cardiovascular and reproductive system function. Females with extremely low body fat will experience a disrupted menstrual cycle. High body fat percentages are associated with high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cancer and other weight-related issues.

Female Body Fat

Females between the ages of 13 and 17 should not have a body fat percentage below 12 percent. For females a percent between 12 and 15 is low, 16 to 25 is considered a healthy range, 26 to 30 is the overweight range and a percentage over 30 is classified as obese. Recommendations change for women between the ages of 18 and 34. For example, women between ages 18 and 34 should have a percentage of at least 20 percent.

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Male Body Fat

Males between the ages of 13 and 17 should not have a body fat percentage below five percent. For males a percent between five and 10 is low, 11 to 25 is considered a healthy range, 26 to 30 percent is the overweight range and a percentage over 30 is classified as obese. Recommendations change for males between the ages of 18 and 34. For example a man between ages 18 and 34 should have a percentage of at least eight percent.

Test Methods

Body fat percentage can be measured using a variety of methods. Bioelectrical impedance and skin fold measurements are simple and can be administered with minimal equipment. For example, skin fold measurements are put into an equation along with height, age and weight to estimate your fat percentage. Bioelectrical impedance analysis sends a small signal through your body and uses traveling speed along with age, height, weight and sex for percentage estimation. Underwater weighing in a hydrostatic tank and Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry can be found in clinical settings and require sophisticated and expensive equipment. Finding a skilled test administrator improves accuracy for all testing methods.

Considerations

Body fat testing methods have been scientifically studied to estimate body fat percentage using specific equations. Therefore, each test has a level of accuracy ranging from plus or minus 2 to 6 percent. Although body fat provides insight into your fitness, it does not replace medical advice. Body fat ranges cannot account for individual differences among teenagers and professional evaluation is recommended before diagnosing the implications of your own body fat percentage.

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References

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