Body Composition and How to Track it

Body Composition and How to Track it

Have you ever compared your body to your best friend’s body? You may wonder how your best friend is tall and thin and you are short and round, but you weigh the exact same. How can that be? How can two people, same gender, look completely different but weigh the same? That’s because humans all have different body compositions.  

What is Body Composition?

It’s best described as what bodies are made of. Human bodies are made up of varying percentages of water, fat, bone and muscle. Don’t let body composition be confused with body mass index (BMI). Body mass index is a measurement of weight-for-height.   

When you step on a scale, the number tells you how much you weigh, but it doesn’t tell you what your body is made up of. Body composition refers to everything in your body and how much you have of each component. For example, a person’s body could be composed of 36% muscle, 12% essential fat, 15% non-essential fat, 12% bone and 25% other (organs, etc.) Let’s take this breakdown and work our way up to make it easier to understand, taking the five example percentages and putting them into two groups; fat mass and fat-free mass1 

>> Fat mass refers to fat tissue in your body and fat-free mass includes everything else (like muscle, bone, fluid and organs) 

What the Scale Really Tells You

Stepping on the scale will show you one number, your weight. What you don’t see are the other numbers in your body and how they affect your body composition.  

For example, if you start an exercise program you may gain one pound of muscle and lose one pound of fat. Since your fat mass decreased and your fat-free mass increased at the same time, your body weight won’t change. See how frustrating this can be for someone who thinks they are putting in a lot of effort at the gym and eating healthy but not seeing the weight change on the scale? This is why the scale is misleading and that’s why knowing your body composition is much more useful than knowing your body weight.

How to Measure Body Composition

Track with a Tape Measure

So, what can you use to measure your body composition? The first way would be to track and measure different body parts2. Purchase a flexible tape measure and track the circumference of your waist, hips, arms, legs and chest.

If you track your measurements for a period of six months, for example, and your waist circumference decreases, it’s a sign that you are probably losing belly fat. Here’s another example: if your exercise program involves weights and your arm circumference is increasing, it’s a sign that you are probably gaining muscle in your arms. The second way to track your body composition would be to take pictures.  

Track with Images

Progress pictures are a very popular way to physically see the changes in your body over time. These pictures are typically known as ‘transformation pictures’ and can be very helpful when looking at your body composition. We often do not notice changes in our body from day to day, but we do notice changes in our body when looking at progress pictures.

There are devices that measure body composition, like a bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA). BIA sends small electrical currents through your body to see how much the body resists the current. This information is used to predict your body fat percentage3 but these devices are not always accurate.  

If you’re interested in knowing your body fat mass percentage, have an LA Fitness ProResults® Trainer help you. A ProResults® trainer can help you with basic principles of physical activity and nutrition to help you improve your body composition.  

A Quick Recap

It’s nothing new; exercise and good nutrition are critical for improving body composition. Exercise and weight training help with fat loss and increased muscle mass. Stepping on the scale will only tell you how much you weigh but there are other factors that need to be considered, like age and genetics. Before you start an exercise and nutrition program, please consult your doctor.  

What’s the bottom line? We are all different. No two people are the same, therefore, we all lose and gain (fat, muscle or both) differently. Don’t just step on the scale. The best ways to track body composition is by measuring the circumference of different body parts and taking progress pictures. Grab a notebook and write down your measurements and take your pictures at regular intervals. Give yourself patience and time to see changes.  

If you would like to learn more about Body Mass Index (BMI) and the difference between BMI and Body Composition, you can read about it here 

Sources

  1. PubMed Central. National Institutes of Health. Application of standards and models in body composition analysis. November 2015 
  2. PubMed Central. National Institutes of Health. Reference values for body composition and anthropometric measurements in athletes. May 2014
  3. PubMed Central. National Institutes of Health. Bioelectrical impedance analysis–part I: review of principles and methods. October 2004 

Your Resting Heart Rate and Why It’s Important

Your Resting Heart Rate and Why It’s Important

Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute (BPM) while at rest.  

Why is Heart Rate Important?

Considering your heart is the most important muscle in your body, it is important to know that it’s functioning properly. You want your heart to beat in a rhythm; not too fast, not too slow, and not too erratic.  

Typically, an adult’s resting heart rate is between 60-100 beats per minute1. Monitoring your heart rate from time to time is a good idea to know your normal heart rate and to take measures if it becomes abnormal.  

Resting heart rate is an indicator of physical fitness. When you first start a training program, it’s likely that you will want to know your resting heart rate. A lower resting heart rate may indicate a sign of good health and a higher degree of being physically fit.  

Depending on your age, gender, or medications you are taking, your resting heart rate changes. People who are physically fit generally have a lower resting rate than those who do not exercise regularly. Resting heart rate will typically increase as you age and will be much faster in infants. 

The best time to find your resting heart rate is in the morning after a good night’s sleep and before you get out of bed1 

  • The best places to find your pulse are the wrists, inside of your elbow, the side of your neck or the top of your foot. 
  • To get the most accurate reading, put your finger over your pulse and count the number of beats in 60 seconds. 

If your range is outside the typical resting heart rate, consult a doctor. Although there is a wide range of normal, an unusually high or low resting heart rate may indicate an underlying problem.  

How to Improve Heart Rate

Make Time for Regular Exercise

  • Make time for exercising every day, even if it’s just walking. Getting regular exercise stimulates your heart and lowers your heart rate. Aim for aerobic activities like; swimming, cycling, or dancing.

Avoid Sitting for Long Periods of Time

  • Studies have found that sitting too long is just as harmful to your body as smoking2. Take more breaks, get up and walk around, stretch your legs, just move your body. Keep yourself active as much as possible to stimulate your heart. 

Avoid Smoking

  • First of all, we know that smoking is bad and can potentially lead to lung cancer and other diseases, but it also increases the resting heart rate. Quitting can lower your blood pressure and heart rate almost immediately3. 

Reduce Stress

  • This is the one that is sometimes out of our control, but if you have a lot on your mind, such as work, family, money, you’re probably stressed. If you are mindful of the stress in your life it’s a good idea to do things for yourself that reduce stress like; meditation, yoga, exercise, massage, and deep breathing. Find ways to calm yourself down to reduce stress and your heart rate.

Take measures to improve your heart rate by exercising or leading an active healthy lifestyle. Keep your heart happy! 

For more on heart health, listen to our podcast on 5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Heart Health. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today! 

SOURCES 

1. American Heart Association. Getting Active How do I calculate my heart rate? October 2016 

2. The Active Times. Sitting is the New Smoking – 7 Ways a Sedentary Lifestyle is Killing you The research on the sitting epidemic and the results aren’t good. September 2014  

3. Smokefree.gov Benefits of Quitting The health benefits of quitting smoking can help most of the major parts of your body: from you brain to your DNA 

What is Body Mass Index and How Should I Use It?

What is Body Mass Index and How Should I Use It?

What is Body Mass Index?

Body Mass Index (BMI) is an indicator of the amount of body fat for the average person. It’s used as a tool to identify if an adult is at a healthy weight and healthy body fat level.

Before we dive into BMI, let’s first review the benefits of maintaining a healthy weight: 

  • More Energy 
  • Less Joint Pain 
  • Better Sleep  
  • Better regulation of blood pressure (better heart health) 
  • Decreased Risk of Diabetes 
  • Longevity 

These are just a few of the benefits of maintaining a healthy weight, but what does BMI have to do with your weight and what does it mean?

For years, BMI has been used by healthcare providers as a measurement to define if a person has too much body fat, and if so, whether it “presents a risk to health.1 

How to Calculate Your BMI

Since we know maintaining a healthy weight is beneficial for your health, let’s take a look at how to calculate body fat by just using your weight and height.

Calculation: Divide a person’s weight in pounds, by their height in inches. Divide the answer by height in inches. Multiply the answer by 703 (703 is the conversion factor to change units from metrics (meters and kilograms) to imperial (inches and pounds).  

Example: Weight is 140lbs and Height is 5’7” or 67in 

140lbs / 67in = 2.089  

2.089 / 67in = .0311 

.0311 x 703 = 21.9 

BMI = 21.9 

Accuracy

BMI is not a perfect measure and everyone’s body composition is different. BMI is a simple tool of weight-for-height and everyone’s height and weight varies. Therefore, this means BMI is not directly measuring body fat.  

Muscle and bone are denser than fat, which means BMI is not accurately addressing body fat. If an athlete or a muscular person calculated their BMI, their BMI might be high because they have more muscle.

According to BMI calculations they would be considered overweight, however, they don’t have too much fat on their body. Since most people are not athletes, BMI might be a good gauge for body fat.  

Healthy BMI Range 

So, what does this mean for you? The World Health Organization states that a healthy BMI range for adults is between 18 and 24.9. Overweight range for BMI is between 25 and 29.9, and obesity range for BMI is 30 or higher.1 These BMI ranges in adults are the same for men and women, regardless of their age. 

How to Use Your BMI

How should you use BMI? Use it as a gauge or a measure. Our very own LA Fitness Registered Dietitian has some helpful tips on lowering BMI; read about it here.   

If you would like to take your health and body composition to the next level, let us help you achieve your goals with our Pro Results® certified personal trainers. Pro Results® trainers can help identify your personal fitness goals and design a customized workout plan to reach those goals.  

When you make an appointment to start your fitness assessment, it will cover:  

  1. Your current fitness levels 
  2. A body composition test (if desired) 
  3. A personalized timeline to achieve your goals 
  4. An overview of cardio and weight equipment 
  5. And, a quick one-on-one workout 

SOURCES 

  1. World Health Organization. Obesity and Overweight Fact sheet detail. February 2018 
How to Add Exercise to Your Busy Lifestyle

How to Add Exercise to Your Busy Lifestyle

Making time to exercise can be a balancing act… work, kids, after school activities, family & friend obligations, just to name a few.

The most common excuse for not exercising: “No time,” says clinical psychologist Lavinia Rodriguez.1

How to make time for exercise

How do you make the time for exercise when you have no time?

Morning Workout. Fitness experts will suggest a morning workout. Why? Because life gets crazier as the day goes on. By getting in a workout first thing in the morning, you have time for other day-to-day stuff without having to think about when you are going to fit in a workout.

Find a Friend. Grab, drag, or bribe a friend to come with you. Having your best bud or accountability partner come with you can make workouts so much fun! Keep one another accountable, set goals, or create challenges with one another. Having someone to go with you means you are less likely to make excuses not to go to the gym.

Write it down. Create a schedule for yourself. Take time on Sunday evening before you go to bed and write down your schedule for the week. Then find pockets of time where you can go to the gym and commit to your schedule. Once you’ve committed to your schedule, it’s less likely that you are going to break it and less likely to make excuses.

Set small goals. Small goals can be BIG wins! Start with working out one or two days per week. These small goals will turn into a routine and eventually become a habit.

Decide. You must decide that you are going to make time for exercise. Make the decision and follow through with it. There will be days when you don’t want to go to the gym, that’s when you need to prove your willpower.

Set your alarm. Set your alarm so you don’t forget. If you set your alarm for the morning, it’s not always easy waking up early. Challenge yourself not to hit snooze. Put your feet on the ground, get vertical, and start walking around. If you set your alarm for the afternoon, you may be hurting for time, but everyone needs to take a break. What you will soon realize is that working out helps improve productivity. So, hit the gym!

Don’t stress. Bottom line, any exercise is better than no exercise. Do what you can, when you can. Don’t stress out or put pressure on yourself because you didn’t make it to the gym.

For even more tips on how to add exercise to your schedule, check out these Workout Strategies for a Busy Lifestyle, or, read up on . For all our blog posts, and to get notified when we upload something new, subscribe today!

SOURCES

  1. Lavinia Rodriguez, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management (iUniverse, 2008).

 

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