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BODY WATCH : Formulas for Figuring Fat

October 11, 1994|Therese Iknoian

Exercise physiologists or fitness professionals in health clubs or sports rehabilitation centers can pinch and poke in just the right places to calculate your body fat. But there are methods that you can do yourself to assess your body composition and health.

WAIST-TO-HIP RATIO:

Measure your waist (the narrowest part) in inches, then measure your hips (the widest part). Now divide the waist measure by the hip measure. For example, a woman's waist is 27 inches and her hips are 33 inches. Her equation: 27+33=0.82.

If a woman's ratio is greater than 0.85, she is at greater risk of coronary heart disease, according to the American College of Medicine. If a man's ratio is greater than 0.95, he is at greater risk. This calculation is based on the theory that "Michelin's Disease is deadlier than a pear shape.

BODY MASS INDEX

This assesses weight relative to height and indicates body composition, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Here's what you do:

* Calculate your body weight in kilograms (divide your weight in pounds by 2.2.

* Find your height in meters, squared, on the following table.

* Divide your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared. This is your total body mass.

Example: a woman weighs 125 pounds and is 5 feet, 4 inches. Follow the steps above:

* 125 pounds by 2.2 = 56.8 kilograms

* 5 foot, 4 inches = 2.62 meters, squared

* 56.8+2.62 = 21.6. A health range for women is 21-23. More that 27.8 is obese.

HEIGHT METERS (squared) 5 ft. 2.31 5 ft. 1 in. 2.37 5 ft. 2 in. 2.46 5 ft. 3 in. 2.56 5 ft. 4 in. 2.62 5 ft. 5 in. 2.72 5 ft. 6 in. 2.78 5 ft. 7 in. 2.89 5 ft. 8 in. 2.95 5 ft. 9 in. 3.06 5 ft. 10 in. 3.13 5 ft. 11 in. 3.24 6 ft. 3.31 6 ft. 1 in. 3.42

PINCH TEST:

Grab a chunk of fat to the right of the belly button between your thumb and forefinger. Pull it away from your body slightly to make sure you haven't grabbed any muscle. If the fold is thicker than 1 inch, you're too fat. (Some fitness professionals say more than half an inch is too much.)

MIRROR TEST

A straightforward assessment: "The easiest way to assess your fat is to take all your clothes off and stand in front of a mirror," one expert says. "If you look, you know you're fat because there's more on the inside there is on the outside.

SKINFOLD MEASUREMENTS

This is one of the most accurate evaluations of body composition and is usually performed by a fitness professional who uses expensive calipers to pinch body fat. For women, measurements are taken on the back of the arm (tricep), just above the hip bone (suprailium) and the middle of the thigh. For men, it's the chest, abdomen and thigh. Inexpensive, plastic molds are available for home use, but they provide only an estimate, and it takes practice to find the right spot to pinch.