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How to Calculate Body Fat Using Waist Measurement & Weight

by
author image Michelle Devine
Michelle Devine is a health and wellness educator in California. Her areas of interest and experience include nutrition, exercise and behavior modification. She has written numerous health articles for various online publications. Devine holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and is also an NASM-certified personal trainer.
How to Calculate Body Fat Using Waist Measurement & Weight
A woman's mid section with a tape measure around her. Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Body fat percentage is a common method of measuring body composition and can be an informative measure of progress when working towards weight loss. Using the scale alone is not always the most accurate because it does not distinguish between fat weight and muscle weight. Despite being in a healthy weight range, having a high body fat percentage has been shown to increase risk of heart disease. You can use the same formula to determine body fat percentage that the U.S. Coast Guard uses, and is just one of the many ways to measure body fat. This method involves taking height and weight, along with a series of circumference measurements that differ based on sex.

Calculations for Men

Step 1

With arms relaxed at the side, measure the circumference of the abdomen at the navel. Do this after a normal exhale and round the measurement to the nearest 1/2 inch.

Step 2

Measure the neck directly below the Adam's apple, not directly over it. Make sure arms are at the sides of the body and shoulders are relaxed. Round measurements up to the nearest 1/2 inch.

Step 3

Measure height by standing on a flat surface without shoes and look straight ahead with chin parallel to the floor. Record this number up to the nearest 1/2 inch.

Measure weight to the nearest pound on a calibrated scale without shoes, preferably first thing in morning before eating or drinking.

Step 4

Calculate body fat percentage by finding the circumference value by subtracting the neck from the abdomen: CV = abdomen - neck

To determine body fat percentage, compare this value to the height measurement on the U.S. Coast Guard's chart, in section 7.3.2 (see Resources).

For men, 10 to 20 percent is considered healthy or normal, and 6 to 10 percent is considered athletic.

Calculations for Women

Step 1

Measure around the natural waist, usually halfway between the navel and the breastbone. Do this after a normal exhale and with arms relaxed at the sides, rounding to the nearest 1/2 inch.

Step 2

Measure the hips at the widest point and round to the nearest 1/2 inch.

Step 3

Measure the neck, directly below the Adam's apple. Make sure arms are at the sides of the body and shoulders are relaxed. Round measurements up to the nearest 1/2 inch.

Step 4

Measure height by standing on a flat surface without shoes and look straight ahead with chin parallel to the floor. Record this number up to the nearest 1/2 inch.

Measure your weight to the nearest pound on a calibrated scale without shoes, preferably first thing in morning before eating or drinking.

Step 5

To calculate body fat percentage, first find the circumference value by adding waist and hips and subtracting neck measurement: CV = (waist + hips) - neck

To determine body fat percentage, compare this value to the height measurement on the U.S. Coast Guard's chart, in section 7.3.3 (see Resources).

For women, 15 to 25 percent is considered healthy or normal, and 10 to 15 percent is considered athletic.

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