Bodyfat measuring is often part of a Fitstart appointment for new club members, as well as personal training and specialty programs at many facilities. I have used calipers on my clients for many years and have also utilized hand held BIA devices. I personally have been measured with calipers, both hand held and stand-on BIA devices, hydrostatic tanks, and once through air displacement (Bod Pod). I have had my measurements taken often my entire adult life, and have a good grasp on what my bodyfat percentage and lean mass readings are.
That is why I am writing about BIA technology. I was recently at IHRSA teaching Bodyblade® for Mad Dogg Athletics. I took the opportunity to walk around and visit a few booths and have some tests done. I saw a new product from China called Bodivis-Body Composition Analyzer right next to the booth for Tanita, who invented the first stand-on bodyfat monitoring device back in the 1990's. I decided I would go through three tests and compare all three. One was from Bodivis and the other two were from Tanita.
On the same day, within a couple hours of each other, I received incredibly different results between the two companies. I did not do any heavy exercise before or between the tests which were done in the morning after I hydrated and had eaten a light breakfast. The two Tanita scales gave me an average of 24% bodyfat, 105lb of muscle, and an athletic frame with high muscle and average bodyfat. That describes me to a T. My body type is mesomorph and I have taught fitness classes for 29 years which requires me to engage in training (some moderate, some vigorous) 20-22 hours per week. I have always been very active. My bodyfat percentage was 19-21% while in my 20's, 21-22% while in my 30's and since in my 40's it has measured 23-25%. When I compared the Tanita scale readings to the others I have received in recent years, they were very similar. I felt confident in the readings and the sales tech was awesome.
The Bodivis read me as being 30.6% bodyfat with only 93lbs of muscle on my 5' 3", 142 pound frame. The chart said I needed to lose 33 lbs to reach a goal weight of 110 and that out of the nine body types listed: Invisible fat, Lightly muscled, Thin, Low Fat, Fit, Fatty, Muscular, Athletic or Obese, I was obese and I needed to lose weight. The sales person must have said, "You are obese and you need to lose weight." ten times before I left his booth. He really needed to work on his delivery and he did not speak English all that well, having come in from Bejing, China. Their chart did not even put me at Lightly Muscled!
If I didn't have a long history of getting this information checked, I would have been devistated. I would have walked away asking, "What is it all for if I train this much and I am still considered obese and 33 lbs overweight?" I wear a size 6 and I am not sure when it fell into the obese clothing section of the store. I haven't weighed 110 pounds since I was about 14 years old and 5 feet tall. If I was naive enough to believe that I needed to lose 33 lbs, I could do some serious harm to myself. If I had low self-esteem, or a history of eating disorders, that kind of information, as cruelly delivered as it was, could have sent me spirally down hill into a self-destruction mode. Being who I am, it did not. After some initial shock, I found it amusing that this was the device that a university in China had developed and sent to the US to compete with Japan's Tanita products. Wow, they missed the mark by a long shot.
The main point of this blog is to warn gym owners and managers of the new companies that are popping up jumping on the band wagon of designing bodyfat testing devices. Even though they have research behind them, it doesn't mean their technology is on the same level as a brand like Tanita. Stay with brands that have been designing the technology all along and you should end up with products that are trustworthy and give correct results. Training your staff to deliver the information in a sensitive manner is also a plus when providing this type of service to your members.
Written by master instructor Sabrina Fairchild for community.spinning.com blog on 4/10/2011