Health magazines and health talk shows are always talking about body fat and how it correlates with BMI (Body Mass Index.) The body mass index determines if we are underweight, overweight, average, healthy, overweight or obese. If you do not want to go to the doctor to find this out, using a body fat caliper is just as useful. This is a tool that measures your body fat without feeling anxious in a doctor’s office.
First, it is important to understand that calipers don’t directly measure body fat. Instead, these tools pinch the skin in different areas of the body to measure a person’s body fat. Essentially, the caliper is taking measurements on the skin fold that it’s pinching. Then, from that selection of skin, it processes an estimation on how much body fat a person has. This percentage is calculated in a wide variety of ways, however. A person’s age, gender, race and fitness level all go into the calculation.
There are up to ten places you can use a caliper to test your body fat. These include the biceps, triceps, sub subscapular area (below the shoulder blade), thigh, iliac crest, abdominal, calf, chest, axilla (upper chest) and the supraspinale. In order to test these areas, ask a friend to help. It’s going to be next to impossible to reach all these areas by yourself. Our bodies just aren’t designed to go every direction.
Next, to pinch your skin, make a C with your free thumb and index finger, pulling it outward. Try not to include any underlying muscle. It’s also important to use the same piece of skin each time you use the caliber. This way you get an accurate reading on how much fat is within your body. With your dominant hand, place the jaws of the caliber onto your pinched skin, pressing down until you hear a click. This means the caliper is measuring your body fat.
You’ll want to make sure that you record all the measures you take with the caliber. It’s a good idea to take three measurements per area. They should only differ by 1-2 mm. Keep these measurements in a notebook or on your computer. That way, you have an ongoing record of how your body is improving over time. These measurements are going to fluctuate, too, based on which formula you use. To avoid too much difference, use the same formula or ask a health care professional which formula is most accurate.
If you exercise regularly, a fat caliper is a good way to measure your body fat outside the doctor’s office. It’s also a more relaxing way to do it. We all want to be healthy and calipers help to keep us on track. It’s a good motivator to tell us how far we have come—and, at the same time, how much further we have to go. Don’t let fat calipers discourage you from exercise but rather motivate you that much more to work towards your fitness goals.