In general, body fat scales can provide rough estimates only. While safe to use, there are many variables that can affect your results. These include:
- Your gender. Women naturally have more body fat than men.
- Where you store fat in the body.
- Pregnancy. These scales aren’t recommended during pregnancy.
Your age. These scales
aren’t suitableTrusted Sourcefor children.
- Your height and stature.
- Frequent endurance and resistance training.
The greatest benefit to using this type of scale is that you can measure your body fat in the comfort of your own home at any time, all without having to travel to a gym or clinic.
However, these scales aren’t completely accurate. You don’t want to make them your sole measurement of your overall health.
Another drawback is that a body fat scale doesn’t take into account other variables of body fat, such as where you might have it.
A body fat scale can only tell you the overall percentage and not where on the body you’re storing potentially dangerous fat.
Body mass index (BMI) is perhaps a more reliable indicator of your overall health instead of counting on a body fat scale alone. While BMI can’t measure fat, it does provide an overall picture of whether you’re in the right weight range for your height and age.
|18.5 – 24.9||Normal or healthy weight|
|25.0 – 29.9||Overweight|
|30.0 and above||Obese|
You can use online calculators to determine your BMI, such as
The downside to relying on BMI is that it doesn’t measure body fat. So, an athlete with a lot of muscle, for example, could have a higher BMI based on their weight and height.
Also, the CDC says that women, older adults, and people of Asian descent naturally have higher levels of body fat. All of these factors can limit the reliability of BMI as your sole measurement of health.
While stepping on a scale is perhaps the easiest method of body fat measurement, there are other ways you can determine your body fat percentage. Aside from BMI, you can ask your health provider about the following methods:
One drawback to body fat scales is that they don’t tell you how much fat your body is holding around the waistline, which is considered a risk for:
Measuring your waistline can help complement your body fat scale results.
Often used by fitness professionals, calipers are used to literally pinch your skin folds (usually around the waist or hips) to estimate your body fat.
The accuracy of this method varies. Results may be more or less accurate depending on the expertise of the person taking the measurement.
Dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scans
Often used to measure bone mass for osteoporosis diagnoses, DEXA scans are also reliable methods of body fat measurement and can be more reliable than relying on BMI alone.
To get one of these scans, you’ll need to find a center that has the equipment. The scans can be pricey depending on your location and may not be covered by insurance.
Handheld fat measurement devices
This body fat measurement test works similar to that of a scale, except it doesn’t measure your weight. There are sensors on either side of the device that measure your body fat as you hold the device in front of you.
Handheld fat measurement devices aren’t as accurate as other methods, but they’re easy to use and relatively inexpensive.
Underwater weight (hydrodensitometry) test
This test is based on the buoyancy of your body weight. Fat floats more easily than muscle. Based on your buoyancy and your weight, the person administering the test can calculate your body fat percentage.
Underwater testing is considered to be an accurate tool for measuring body fat. However, it can be difficult to find a center that has the ability to do this type of testing. The test can also be uncomfortable.
Available at some fitness centers and medical facilities, a Bod Pod is a device you stand in for a few minutes while it measures your body fat via air displacement plethysmography (ADP).
Body fat scales can be helpful when you’re trying to measure your body fat, but they don’t tell the whole story about your fat-to-muscle ratio. Instead, you can use these scales as complements to other tools.
Talk to your doctor about your BMI, and how you can best measure and track your body composition.
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Last medically reviewed on July 22, 2019