How to Measure Belly Fat

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Measuring your belly fat provides a basis for evaluating your overall health and level of physical fitness. In addition, the measure of a person's belly fat is one of the most important ways that doctors determine risk for a host of diseases and medical conditions linked to obesity and weight. There are different ways of measuring how much fat you are carrying in your midsection, and to get the most complete picture of the state of your bodily health, you should use each one. Take time to understand each type in order to get a sense of what the evaluation is measuring and how it relates to your fitness.

  • Determine the size of your waist using a tape measure around the widest part of your belly (typically right around the belly button). Calculate your waist-to-hip ratio by measuring the circumference of your hips at the widest point, and dividing your waist measurement by your hip measurement.

  • Calculate your body mass index (BMI) using a BMI calculator, available online. BMI determines your body fat percentage, based on your weight in relation to your height. See where your body mass index lies on the scale and determine how your body mass index classifies your weight--for example, as underweight, "healthy," overweight, or obese.

  • Use a pair of body fat calipers to determine how much belly fat you are carrying in your midsection. These resemble a large pair of tweezers and determine the size of folds of fat visible on the stomach. Take a fold of fat from the center of your waist, use your thumb and forefinger to pinch it near your abdominal muscles and use your other hand to measure the size with the calipers.

  • Determine whether your body shape is what is known as an "apple" or a "pear" shape. These are not exact calculations but can serve as a way of determining if you are more prone to carry weight in your midsection (apple) or your lower body (pear). This will help your healthcare professional better assess your level of physical health.

  • Record your measurement on a piece of paper and take your results to your healthcare professional at your next appointment.

Tips & Warnings

  • The resources will give you information and guidance on the health implications of belly fat measurements.
  • Be as honest as possible in your assessment of your personal fitness level and belly fat measurement, as cheating on your measurements only serves to give you an unrealistic evaluation of your health. Measure as accurately as possible to get the best view of your physical fitness level and potential health issues.
  • If your belly fat measurement (or one of the derivative values determined using a measurement) falls into a zone that is deemed unhealthy, make an appointment with your healthcare professional as soon as possible to discuss possible treatment options.

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