Body Mass Index is a popular way to determine whether a person is healthy weight based on height and body type, but it doesn’t provide enough insight about your true health. A better way to determine if your weight is in a healthy range is to measure body fat percentage, which is just what is sounds like – a metric that shows how much of your total body mass is comprised of fat.

So what is a healthy body fat percentage? And how can you determine yours?

Understanding the Definitions

When body fat percentage is discussed, there are two terms associated with it: normal and ideal. The normal body fat percentage is the average amount, while ideal is the amount medical practitioners would prefer people have for optimal health.

The National Institutes for Health break down the numbers like this:


  • Ideal body fat percentage: 20 to 21 percent
  • Normal body fat percentage: 22 to 25 percent
    • Male

      • Ideal body fat percentage: 13 to 17 percent
      • Normal body fat percentage: 17 to 19 percent
        • If body fat percentage falls between 3 and 6 percent in men and under 12 percent in women, it can be dangerous. Athletes are most at risk, particularly young ones, when it comes to falling too low on the body fat percentage scale.

          How is Body Fat Percentage Measured?

          There are several techniques to accurately measure body fat percentage and each one is certainly more thorough than simply using height and weight to determine health.

          Here are 3 methods to measure body fat percentage:

          • Skin fold – During this test, fat around the body is pinched together with the thumb and forefinger and then measured with a body fat caliper. This test is most accurate when done by a professional on several sites of the body. To get the most accurate measurements of progress, the fat needs to be measured in exactly the same places over time.
          • Hydrostatic – During hydrostatic measuring, you submerge underwater several times, exhaling all the air from your lungs before each dunk. Because fat-free mass (muscle and bone) is denser than water, a person with more of it will weigh more underwater. This method is considered highly accurate and is currently the “gold standard.” It does cost about $150 to have your body fat percentage measured this way, and you can have it done at various hospitals, research labs, and universities.
          • Dual energy X-ray – This relatively new way of measuring body fat percentage uses two sets of X-rays and is more accurate than the hydrostatic method because it takes into consideration the body’s fat-free soft mass, fat tissue, and mineral mass.

          Ways to Reduce Body Fat

          When it comes to reducing body fat, keep in mind the healthy ranges we mentioned above. Body fat is an important part of your physiology and health. Some routes to take include:

          • More aerobic exercise. Burning fat is all about getting your heart rate up.
          • Know what you eat. Start by keeping a food journal. Write down what you eat, and when, and look for simple ways to reduce your caloric intake and fuel yourself with smarter foods. By making small changes over time, you will be able to reduce body fat and look and feel healthier.
          • Turn to tech. For those areas with stubborn fat deposits, the Slimlight laser provides a non-invasive treatment with no recovery time.

          The road to a healthy body fat percentage is different for every person but healthy weight maintenance is important to overall wellness. Learn more at