This chart gives an accurate representation of the aesthetics of various body fat levels.
Body fat is a much more useful data point for health than Body Mass Index (BMI), which is simply a height/weight ratio. More muscle on your frame is good, but it weighs nearly double what fat does, primarily because of the difference in water weight (around 15% for fat, around 70% for muscle).
Why is that important? Well, if your doctor or insurance company puts you in a high-risk category for a higher than normal BMI, it might be because you’re athletic and just carry more muscle than most people your height. My BMI is in the “overweight” category, while my body fat is around 12%. Contest ready male bodybuilders show as morbidly obese on BMI charts.
So is a low body fat percentage critical to achieving and maintaining good health and fitness? It’s an important component, even if your aerobic threshold (stamina) and strength-to-body weight ratio is still high.
Why? Well the fact is that as we get older, the cumulative wear-and tear on our lower body joints is accelerated by any excess weight. You could be on the edge of an injury and be unaware because of your current fitness capacity. Maybe you have great endurance and are very strong, but if your joints are heavily loaded, especially if lower body range of motion is reduced. Tight hamstrings and pelvic muscles are common for muscular, stoutly built people who don’t specifically practice a regular flexibility program.
The bottom line? BMI is only meaningful if you also have a higher body fat percentage. And while low body fat is not essential to overall health if you are well conditioned and at a moderate BF%, you’ll do your joints a favor and minimize injury risk if you are also lean and flexible.
Learn more about how to get and stay in great shape? Contact Dan at Tri Valley Trainer