What Is a Healthy Body Fat Percentage?

How to figure out how much fat is in your body, and what that means for your weight

Your body fat percentage is the amount of your body weight that is solely composed of fatty tissue. The body requires a certain percentage of fat to protect the organs, store energy and regulate body temperature. Going above or below the recommended percentage can have negative repercussions for men and women, so it's good to find out if you are in a healthy range.

Under 40

Women between the ages of 20 and 40 should have a body fat percentage of 21 to 33 percent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Anything under 21 percent is considered underweight, and can affect fertility, immunity and other health factors. Men between the ages of 20 and 40 should have a body fat percentage of 8 to 19 percent.

Over 40

The WHO says that 23 to 36 percent is a healthy range of body fat for women over the age of 40 and that 11 to 25 percent is healthy for men in the same age group. Both men and women who have body fat percentages over the recommended amount should try to reduce that number through a healthy diet and exercise.

Calculating body fat percentage

You can calculate your body fat at home or at the gym with a personal trainer. The gym will likely have specific body fat calipers, which is a pincher-looking device that measures your body fat by gently pinching different areas of your skin. You can also determine your body fat percentage with several different formulas that require you to tape measure certain areas of your body, depending on gender. Women will usually measure their neck, waist, hips and stomach around the navel. The formulas also take into consideration your height and existing weight.

Unhealthy body fat percentage

Being underweight or overweight according to body fat percentage can cause many health issues, both chronic and acute. Women with an abnormally low body fat can have disrupted menstrual cycles, causing them to have difficulty getting pregnant, according to the Mayo Clinic. Both genders can have bone and hair loss and a weakened immune system from being underweight. An abnormally high body fat percentage can cause heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer.

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