Body Composition Scales: how they work and what the readings mean

Body composition scales are used by hospitals, gyms, sports clubs and slimming groups to provide a complete picture of body health.

So to ensure their patients are being provided with the correct advice and treatment, a dietetic will use a body composition scale to complete a true assessment of the patient.

Obesity is currently affecting 25% of the UK adult population, but your knowledge of body composition can go a long way to helping your patients or members stay in shape.

The body composition scale range from Marsden was developed in conjunction with Hull York Medical School to within 3% of DEXA accuracy - closer than scales by any other manufacturer. Read on to find out more about what their readings tell you, and what good targets are to aim for.

How do body composition scales work?

Before using the scale, it is important to remove socks and shoes. This is so the scale can transmit a small electrical wave around your body in order to generate all the information it needs for the readings.

These undetectable electronic impulses are sent up through the feet, to the legs and the abdomen - before travelling back to the pads, allowing the scale to measure the current and the body composition measurements are provided.

Body composition measurements

Alongside height and weight, the most common readings you clean glean from a body composition scale are BMI, Body Fat Percentage, Total Body Water, Basal Metabolic Rate, Fat Mass and Fat Free Mass. But what do these readings mean?

BMI - The most common way of determining whether a person is overweight or not. It's calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by the square of their height in metres. A healthy BMI is in the region of 18.5-24.9 kg/m2.

Body Fat Percentage - This measure separates your body composition into two categories - your fat mass and everything else (bones, muscle, hair and water). Because the reading is not based on weight, a slim person who doesn't weigh much may have a higher Body Fat Percentage than a muscular person who weighs more. A healthy Body Fat Percentage for men is 8-20% for men; it's 15-31% for women.

Total Body Water - This shows how hydrated the body is - which is beneficial for transporting waste, helping organs to function, regulating body temperature and digestion. For males, a healthy Total Body Water is between 60-65%; for women it is between 45-60%.

Basal Metabolic Rate - This is the amount of calories that your body needs to function. It's based on if the body was resting for 24 hours - when only vital functions need supporting. For males this is typically around 1662 calories and for females, 1393 calories.

Fat Mass / Fat Free Mass - Fat Mass is the total mass of fat in the body - and the Fat Free Mass is the total of everything else. Some fat is essential, to keep vital organs warm and protected - so a Fat Mass of around 10-12% (for males) is ideal. A fat mass of 20-32% is healthy for females.

For more information on what the healthy body composition readings are click here. For a full guide to body composition click here to download our white paper. To find out the body composition of certain celebrities, click here for our free poster.

The Marsden body composition range

The Marsden MBF-6000 includes all the measurements above - and it is supplied with an optional carry case, making it the perfect portable solution for mobile physicians, physiotherapists, nurses and fitness trainers.

The Marsden MBF-6010 is a column-based scale, so the indicator can be read without the need to bend down. It is the perfect permanent solution for hospitals, pharmacies, gyms and sports clubs. Both the MBF-6000 and MBF-6010 have a 300kg capacity, accuracy to 100g and printer-fitted versions are available. A height measure is provided as an optional extra on the MBF-6010.

Alternatively, the BFA-220R is a portable Class III Approved body fat scale - with measurements including Body Fat Percentage, Total Body Water, Fat Mass, Fat Free Mass, Muscle Mass and BMI. Because the scale is powered by rechargeable battery it is the perfect portable solution for personal trainers, gyms and sports clubs.

For our full range of body composition scales click here.

To find out more about body composition measurements and our range, call 01709 364296 or contact us here.

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