Body-fat percentage tests are among the most popular voluntary exams at health fairs and gyms.
Many people who take the test are consumed by their appearance and have created unrealistic goals for themselves and this maybe due to the hoard of fitness magazines, the men and women pictured in them become role models so to speak for what the body should look like. One must understand that a large part is genes, metabolism, behavior, environment, culture and other variables include nutrition and intensity of exercise.
Less body fat doesn't mean fit ...People should be more concerned about the placement of that body fat and balancing daily exercise with sensible nutritional habits.
To maintain life, a person needs at least 3 percent to 5 percent body fat. Extremely low body fat, can be detrimental to health and fitness. For most women, 11 percent body fat or less is medically unsafe. For most men, 5 percent or less is medically unsafe.One of the immediate effects of extremely low body fat is a great susceptibility to illness.
- Body-fat levels affect the immune system. It's not unusual for a triathlete or a marathoner two weeks before competition to get sick or catch a cold.
- Over the long haul, very low levels of body fat can lead to loss of bone density, which increases the risk of stress fractures
- Women's reproductive cycles can be disrupted or stop entirely.
One should be less concerned about the amount of fat and more concerned about its type and location. Recent studies indicate that some body fat is good, and some is not.
- Most of our fat - somewhere between 70 and 80 percent for men, and more for women - is subcutaneous; that is, right beneath the skin. That's the good body fat.
- The bad stuff is the deep body fat, also called intra-abdominal or visceral fat, most of it in the abdomen around our internal organs. A lot of deep body fat can give a person an apple shape, and it seems to be associated with all health problems on which fat seems to have any bearing. The more visceral fat you have, the higher the level of free fatty acids in your blood. Some of the bad body fat, released into the bloodstream, can clog arteries, And because visceral fat is so near the liver, a lot of the fatty acids it releases go directly into that organ, which may be impaired by too-high fat levels in the bloodstream.
- Genes, gender - men have about twice the amount of bad fat as women - and lifestyle determine the amount and type of body fat. And lifestyle is the only factor we should be concerned about, because it's the only one people can control - with physical activity and sensible nutrition.
In the context of fitness, people need to balance lean muscle mass with fat:
The number and size of muscle and fat cells determine the amount of muscle and fat tissue and, consequently, a person's weight. Someone with a great number of large-size muscle and/or fat cells will weigh more than someone with fewer, smaller cells.
The number of muscle cells is determined before birth and remains the same for most of our lives, with some decrease in our senior years, Gaesser said. The size of these cells increases naturally as a person ages, but the size also can be increased with intense physical activity such as weightlifting.
Fat cells are a different story. People are born with a given number of fat cells, somewhere between 5 billion and 10 billion. Recent studies show this number stays constant through out life.
These realities aside, many people obsess about decreasing body fat, sometimes setting themselves up for failure by comparing themselves to athletes.
The low-fat bodies of many successful athletes - including most swimmers, gymnasts, runners and beach-volleyball players - tend to be perceived as temples of perfection.
There's no question that body-fat percentage is one of several statistics used by competitive athletes in monitoring fitness. For many types of athletes, it's important because too much fat tissue is really dead weight and doesn't contribute to performance.
But it's crucial for people to realize that body-fat percentage is just one small component of an athlete's total training program. Athletes burn a lot of fat and calories in training six to eight hours a day. Most of us non-athletes don't train that much in a week. So the bottom line is to not obsess and definitely not compare when you are looking at magazines. It leads to unrealistic goals and disappointment especially in younger age groups and has been linked to depression, anorexia and bulimia.