The Facts About Fitness Tools

Fitness // Sarah Link // 7 April 2014

We all want to be fit and healthy, but what’s the best way to measure up our progress as we work towards our goals? We asked 12WBT fitness expert Dan Swanbury to explain the pros and cons of three most common fitness tools.

Tim, Kelly & Dan. The 12WBT Fitness team

Tim, Kelly & Dan. The 12WBT Fitness team

Waist Hip Ratio (WHR)

What is it? This is a relatively good tool to indicate general health, fertility and risk factors (such as cardiovascular disease) by measuring the ratio of your waist to hip.

Pros? It is easy to execute as it only requires a tape measure and is relatively foolproof to complete if you follow the instructions.

Cons? Like every test it does have limitations. However it pretty accurately measures abdominal fat distribution, which is a major indicator of morbidity and mortality risk.

Try this WHR Calculator.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

What is it? A widely used tool, and World Health Organisation standard for measuring obesity. While it can be a good resource it should always be used in conjunction with other tests.

Pros? Using a simple equation of dividing your body weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared (m2), it estimates your total amount of body weight.

You can measure your BMI here.

Cons? It has limited applicability to athletes who carry larger muscle mass, which isn’t necessarily an indicator of health. They will likely fall into the overweight category, but could have a low body fat percentage (ranging from 5-15%), which is great. At any rate, it’s useful to quickly and easily classify. Then sound judgment should be used as to whether this is an issue. For example, as a male, if I have a BMI of 24 (in the healthy range) but have a body fat percentage of 35% then this isn’t good, despite my BMI being okay.

Body Mass Composition (BMC)

What is it? This is basically a measure of body fat percentage, but will usually also include measures of lean mass (muscle).

Pros? Body Fat Percentage can be useful as it’s something to try to lower if it’s too high, but it should be noted that for normal bodily function we do need some body fat, with women naturally carrying and needing slightly more than men.

Cons? The major drawback is that some of the tests used to measure it can be inaccurate or measure only part (such as skinfold, which measures fat just under the skin but not fat around the organs).

Dan’s Conclusion

As fitness tools, they all have their strengths and drawbacks, which is the reason why any good fitness professional will conduct a range of tests to ensure they cover every angle. They can then use the results as a whole to assess someone’s fitness and general health.

At 12WBT we use a variety of tools, challenges and milestones to measure your fitness and health. Join up today and take your fitness and health to new heights!

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