Body fat percentage, the proportion of fat you have compared to lean tissue, is one of the best-known indicators of fitness and overall health. This is not to be confused with weight, since anyone with higher percentages of body fat, regardless of weight, will be more likely to develop chronic diseases, especially later in life.
There are, however, different kinds of fat stored in the body that serve varied functions. Among the important functions of fat include insulation to conserve heat, metabolic fuel for energy, and an extra layer of cushion for internal organs.
While some fat is absolutely necessary, fat in excess can cause detrimental effects to your health.
Risks Associated with Unhealthy Body Fat Percentage
Having a higher than recommended percentage of body fat increases the likelihood of being diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, cardiovascular disease, cancer, gall stones, among other chronic diseases. A fat percentage considered too high is generally above 25% for women and 20% for men.
While having too much body fat compared to lean tissue is a more common problem, having too little body fat can also result in poor effects to health. Having low body fat percentages can lead to an increased risk of dehydration, fractures, and reproductive function.
Goals For Body Fat Percentage
The targets for healthy body fat percentage vary by age group and by gender.
For women from the age of 20-29, a body fat percentage of between 16.5 and 22.7 is ideal. Closer to 16.5% is considered fit/healthy, while percentages closer to 18.6% are considered normal or adequate. For women 30-39, the percentage increases to 20.8%, and eventually maxes out at 31% for women over the age of 60. Anything under 14% would be considered too low and could pose health risks regardless of age.
For men from the age of 20-29, the ideal fat percentage is between 9% and 18.6%. At 30-39, this increases to 21.3% and maxes out at 25.2% for men over the age of 60. Body fat below 8% is considered too low and could pose health risks, regardless of age.
How to Reduce Overall Body Fat
Strength training, well-balanced diets low in fats, and consistent sleep (7 hours) are key lifestyle patterns that help people manage their body fat levels.
Both medical and fitness experts can be excellent references for assistance with body fat percentage management.
Schedule a Body Composition Scan
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