Body composition

Body composition
Body composition

Body composition – is the relative percentage of body fat and active muscle mass in total body weight. This is part of the fitness elements, conditioned by the state of health (Falls, Baylur and Dishman). Experimental studies have shown changes in body composition at low population levels, to the detriment of active mass.

Body composition and growth are key components of health in both individuals and populations. The ongoing epidemic of obesity in children and adults has highlighted the importance of body fat for short term and long term health. However, other components of body composition also influence health outcomes, and its measurement is increasingly considered valuable in clinical practice.

The main causes of this phenomenon are:

  • raising the standard of living;
  • mechanization and automation of professional activities;
  • increasing leisure time;
  • lack of physical activity;
  • insufficient knowledge about weight control;
  • lack of self-image motivation.

The effects of poor body composition are:

  • increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, arthrosis, etc.;
  • deficient body attitudes;
  • delayed puberty in children;
  • resistance and low working capacity.

Improving body composition involves engaging subjects in systematic exercise programs and a proper nutritional regimen. The first years of growth and development of the baby are essential for its physical, mental and emotional evolution. The percentage of muscle mass increases during childhood and adolescence, a plateau is made at the beginning of the adult period and regresses after this stage.

The percentage of adipose tissue records a different evolution – increases during the first year of life, then decreases in an individual manner, along with muscle growth. In children with obesity, fatty tissue continues to develop as a result of faulty diet and lack of physical activity.

During adolescence there is a new growth of adipose tissue. Girls are experiencing growth that prolongs throughout the evolution. In boys there is a decrease in this tissue, followed by a return during adulthood.

There are some critical periods in which increased attention should be paid to body composition: the last trimester of pregnancy, the first year of life, and the onset of adolescence. During these periods there is an increase in the number of cells in adipose tissue.

An important reason to keep the number of fat cells low is that obesity acquired in childhood is the most difficult to fight. Overweight children are not necessarily healthy children. Overweight children become overweight adults.

At adult ages, physical effort and proper diet will help prevent the growth of fat cells and counteract the decline in muscle mass. According to some authors, between 25-70 years, men and women lose muscle at a rate of 0.2-0.3 kg / year.

Excess fat tissue leads to superior energy consumption for a given mechanical work. This causes additional load for the circulatory function and for the other functions.

Epidemiological studies made on overweight people have illustrated a weak effect of poor composition on arteriosclerosis and other cardiac affections (the American Medical Association believes that the US obesity problem is alarming, with 50% of adults and 40% of children being in this category). It is also possible that systemic or degenerative changes at elderness may not be due to the aging process, but the reduction of physiological functions as a reflex of sedentary life.

Measurments or indices:

Traditionally, skinfold thickness measurements have been used to rank individuals in terms of “relative fatness” or to assess the size of specific subcutaneous fat depots. Measurements are quick and simple to obtain in most age groups including young infants. In general, intraobserver and interobserver error are low compared to between‐subject variability, but in obese children accuracy and precision are poorer. Best use of skinfold thickness data is as raw values, where they act as reliable indices of regional fatness.

Body mass index (BMI) – is also widely used as an index of relative weight, often expressed as SDS to take into account age and sex. BMI’s predictive value for children and adolescents is less clear. BMI is a global index of nutritional status, used for example, to categorise both overweight/obesity, and eating disorders in combination with psychological criteria (its relation with body composition is controversial).

Waist circumference (WC) – provides a simple measure of central fatness, which may be more predictive of adverse outcomes such as lipid profile or insulin resistance than total fat. In adults, waist–hip ratio is independently associated with morbidity after adjustment for relative weight, such that the use of relative weight and body shape simultaneously gives a better estimate of risk of morbidity than either alone.

Whole body data may appear optimal, but in practice regional data may be more informative about clinical condition, as well as more accurate. Many disease states exert disproportionate effects on particular body regions. In obesity, the main concern is central adiposity, so monitoring of WC may provide a better indication of health risk, and response to treatment, than whole body fatness.

Benefits of maintaining a healthy body composition:

A healthy lifestyle including a well maintained diet and adequate physical activity can produce many health benefits and increase quality of life. Some of these health benefits include a decrease in risk for and improve conditions in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic disease, osteoporosis and a host of other diseases.

Regular physical activity and maintenance of a healthy body composition can also improve ability to perform activities of daily life, increase energy and help to maintain cognitive function and decrease stress.

Body Fat Values Table for Men and Women




Risky (low body fat)



Very lean








21-30% Excess fat



Risky (high body fat)



  • Body composition is a measurement of a person’s fat mass and fat free (lean) mass.
  • Testing your body composition can be a great way to set, monitor, and reach realistic health and fitness goals.
  • General measurements such as weight and BMI can be less specific in relation to a person’s general health and individual goals.
  • Body composition tests are a great way to set a baseline before starting a routine or program and to track progress throughout a program.
  • Body composition tests can help you monitor fat loss and muscle maintenance to help you to better reach your health and fitness goals.

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