Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Grab Those Calipers

As a high school teenanger I hated the presidential fitness test, mainly because I was terrible at all aspects of it. I could do the situps, and that was about it. I could do nary a single pullup, and my mile time was abysmal. I think I did marginally well on the stretch. But there was one thing I hated above all else, and that was when Mr. Donodeo grabbed those dreaded calipers to measure my body fat.

I was a fat kid, bordering on obese, so having some wiry, middle-aged man measure precisely how fat I was in a room full of my peers wasn't the highlight of my day.

So when the Amazon box arrived today with my calipers, it made me think about how I now willingly put myself through what I once dreaded.

As with seemingly every health and fitness-related thing, there are multiple ways to measure your body fat, and there are multiple ways within methods to take your measurements. Using the calipers, the Jackson-Pollock method (no,seriously) has you taking measurements in three areas: the chest, abs, and thighs. There's also a seven-caliper method and a four-caliper method just to make it more fun. There's even a one-caliper method just using the back of your arms, or triceps.

No matter which method I used, I fell within a fairly consistent range, just within the acceptable band. Considering that a trainer at my gym used biolectric impedence had me at over 30% just a few weeks ago, I'm guessing that it wasn't completely accurate. Either that, or I've shed about 15 pounds of body fat in three weeks. That's not implausible, but it's fairly unlikely.

Having an accurate account of your body fat will provide you with a better overall sense of how your weight loss is progressing, and what you might need to do to improve your health. The BMI indexes are, well, complete crap. You might be 60 pounds overweight according to some chart, but if you're clocking in at 20 percent body fat or lower for a man, and a bit higher for a woman, then you don't have as far to go as you might think. Of course it does work the other way and you might have much higher body fat than you would think from your body weight. Either way, at $15 at the most for some good calipers, write down those skinfold measurements.

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