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What Is A Healthy Body Fat Level?

What Percentage It Should Be

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There is a healthy debate as to what is generally considered to be healthy levels of bodyfat that men and women carry. Body fat is vital in order to maintain basic physical and physiological health. The minimum which this can be is called “essential fat”. Women require a higher amount of essential fat than men due to factors such as hormones, breasts and sexual organs. Women also need a higher amount of body fat for ovulation.

The difference in levels of body fat between men and women of all ages will have a varying factor on overall health. A high level of body fat brings with it significant health issues that can cause extreme medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and can even lead to strokes and contribute towards developing cancers. On the other hand, extremely low levels of body fat can also bring with it a variety of health issues such as organ failure, diabetes, heart disease, gastrointestinal problems and damage to your nervous system, among others. Therefore whatever your goal, it is very important to maintain a healthy balance and not go for one of the extremes.


BODY FAT BASED ON LIFESTYLE & GOAL

How much fat we carry can depend largely on our lifestyle choices and goals in life. The people who tend to have lower body fat levels are those who maintain lifestyles and/or professions that require them to be in the best physical shape possible. For example, this usually tends to be athletes, who are the benchmark of optimum physical health.

The following example is a commonly used body fat chart that would be used as a guideline for national health requirements.


As expected, athletes lead the way as they maintain low levels of body fat throughout the year, closely followed by fitness enthusiasts meaning “those who exercise regularly and lead a healthy and active lifestyle”. Most people will fit into the “average” category as those that are athletes or overweight will tend to be at opposite ends of the spectrum.

The most accurate way to measure body fat is the tried and tested caliper test. The skin fold caliper is a device which measures the thickness of a fold of your skin with its underlying layer of fat. The method involves doing this at key locations on the body to give an accurate representative of the total amount of fat on the body as well as estimating the total percent of body fat on the body.

BODY FAT BASED ON AGE

As we get older our body fat levels will change and with that so too will the ideal requirements of the level of body fat required to keep us staying healthy and active. Body density changes over the years and this will contribute towards the higher ideal body fat level as we age.

This chart represents the ideal body fat percentage based on age from research conducted by Dr’s Jackson & Pollock which has widely been used as the industry benchmark since the 1970’s due to its accuracy and efficiency.


Using yourself as an example, use the left-hand column to find your age and the corresponding column to find your ideal body fat percentage. This is to be used as a guide of course, but over the decades has been seen as a very accurate measurement for body fat levels at different ages based on what is considered “healthy” at each age. Whilst this doesn’t necessarily mean that someone over or under their “ideal” body fat percentage is unhealthy, it can be used as a benchmark on which to try and maintain your level as you get older.


NUTRITION

The food we put into our bodies is the most fundamental aspect of weight management. Even before we start to think about exercise it is nutrition alone that will play the most important role.

Following a balanced diet that consists of lean meats, complex carbs, lots of fruit and vegetables will generally help you maintain a healthy physique. Those who follow different diets can also achieve the same, provided they contain well balanced sources of protein, carbs and healthy fats.

Once we add in regular exercise, which can be done in whatever form you desire, provided it results in the desired amount of energy expenditure and works every muscle group, significant health and physical changes can be achieved!

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