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Baddreamer27's avatar

Do you think Body Fat Composition is an accurate assessment of your health?

Asked by Baddreamer27 (705 points ) February 7th, 2011

The NavyTimes featured an article on a sailor who has had three failures for his physical fitness assessment due to body fat standards. This sailor consistently scored well on the excersize portion (sit-ups/push-ups/run) also getting very good evaluations and is a decorated 14 year sailor. He is being kicked out due to his body fat measurements. The Navy states a male should be under 22% body fat and a femal should be under 33%. To measure this, if you are over your height/weight limit you are taped (female) around your waist, neck and fattest part of your hips/butt. For males its neck and waist. They add our hip and waist measurement and subtract our neck measurement. Do you think this accurately tells how in-shape you are?

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9 Answers

incendiary_dan's avatar

Clearly it doesn’t, if performance indicates otherwise. Plus, the link between weight and health has been drastically overstated, and is correlational in nature rather than being based on empirical studies. Take, for instance, that women just below the BMI rating for obese are the ones who statistically live the longest.

Health is too complex an issue to be boiled down to a number.

Baddreamer27's avatar

What is really bad about this article is the guy was in Iraq voluntarily and was waived from two tests. Then comes home to find out his wife was terminally ill with breast cancer. His command waived him again from testing due to his situation. Well, She passed away in 2009 leaving him the single-dad to two girls. He tested again and missed the body fat by only a few points and has had trouble since. The rule is you fail 3 tests in 4 years and you get the boot. I think the Navy black balled this guy. They then tell him Jan 14 that he is being out-processed and only has 10 days to move himself and daughters from base housing! I understand the Navy is forcing people out right now every chance they get, but come on I can think of at least 10 people that would willingly hang thier dixie caps up for good…I feel for this guy. He sounds like an outstanding sailor, and even “looked” healthy from his picture. He is 6’4” and weighs 240lbs.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Body fat composition is not supposed to be an accurate assessment of health—it is supposed to be one indicator among many. And as @incendiary_dan has already pointed out, this particular sailor’s performance demonstrates exactly why focusing on any single indicator is absurd. Consider the fact that, by some measures, Gerard Butler was in terrible shape while starring as King Leonidas in 300. His BMI would have put him in the obese range, for instance, since BMI only considers height and weight and not what might be making you heavy.

iamthemob's avatar

I think we need to differentiate between the BMI and body fat composition. The BMI solely takes into account height and weight, as mentioned. This is a body fat composition index – it requires further measurements.

That said, body fat composition and the BMI are starting points, not end points. Both can indicate a potential problem, but neither except at the high and low ends indicate anything about a person’s actual health. They are, in fact, incredibly problematic when used as assessments.

Looking at the body fat composition numbers – when I was training for my first marathon, my body was a machine. I was measured at 2%-3% body fat. For men, 3%-5% is the minimum amount necessary to cover basic life functions. 2% is the aim for body builders, who look healthy but often aren’t. For a BMI measurement, I was underweight where, as @SavoirFaire mentioned, a bodybuilder would be obese.

Basing any assessment on those numbers is completely missing the point.

Cruiser's avatar

As a baseline evaluating tool I think it has its place. For guys anything below 22 bmi and you are obviously getting up and moving around quite a bit and that indicates part of a healthy life style including a decent diet ti help keep the fat ratio in check.

Above 22 bmi and more thna likely you are a lazy bum sitting at you computer eating Cheetos a lot more than you should be.

iamthemob's avatar

@Cruiser – I think that you’re talking about body fat, not BMI.

To get a BMI of under 22, for instance, a man of 5 10 couldn’t weigh over 153 pounds.

I think that demonstrates how problematic the indexes actually are…

Baddreamer27's avatar

@Cruiser body fat composition and BMI are not the same thing here. They simply take your measurements add/subtract and based off your height tell you what a chart says your body fat percentage is.

Cruiser's avatar

@iamthemob 153 at 5’10” sounds pretty fit to me! I was 168 lbs at 6’ at my hey day of swim team. I can still swim as fast as I did back then but at 205 I know I am not as healthy as I could be.

iamthemob's avatar

@Cruiser – It’s very fit – however, so are weights a good deal higher than that. Your numbers over include “healthy” in the “lazy couch group” ;-)

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