How To Measure Body Fat 2023? 10 Methods You Can Consider

Reviewed by Dr. Drew Sutton, MD

A team of qualified and experienced fact-checkers carefully reviews our content before it is published on our website. At MIDSS, we rely on the latest and most reliable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the end of each article. We also do not accept plagiarised and misleading content from our authors and contributors. Read more about our fact check and editorial process.

10 Methods To Measure Body Fat
There are some ways to measure body fat percentage. Photo: Shutterstock

Healthy weight management became so easy once I learned a few simple methods of measuring it. I regularly estimated my body fat levels, which allowed me to step on the gas every time I felt I was putting on too much weight.


So in an attempt to pass on some of the knowledge, we have put together a short article to discuss the 10 ways you can estimate weight and measure body fat percentage. But before we get into the main body of the article, we have highlighted what is body fat and why it matters. 

After giving these 10 methods, we go over the healthy body fat standard, then finish off with a final message and answer some frequently asked questions (FAQs). 

How Does An Individual Measure Body Fat 2023? 10 Best Ways 

  1. Skinfold Testing  
  2. Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA)
  3. Body Circumference Measurements
  4. Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) 
  5. Hydrostatic Weighing & Body Fat Analysis 
  6. The Bod Pod 
  7. Test Body Weight 
  8. Body Mass Index (BMI) 
  9. Appearance
  10. Waist-Hip Ratio 

How To Measure Body Fat 2023: 10 Methods To Consider

Skinfold Testing  

How to Count Body Fat
The skin fold test gives a near-accurate body fat percentage. Photo: Shutterstock

I am very impressed with the accuracy and simplicity of skinfold testing[1] to estimate body fat percentage. In my experience, it is only 1-2% off the most cutting-edge means of testing like the DEXA scan. Employing the skinfold method, I tested at 13% body fat, while the DEXA gave me a reading of 12%. 

Prior to initiating the skin fold testing, a practitioner must consult with the client and ensure that a detailed description of the procedure is provided. The client must remove their clothes leaving only their underwear. 

The practitioner would then pinch a part of the body using the thumb and index finger, i.e., the abdomen and supra iliac. From here, a practitioner would retract the skin away from the body and measure the thickness using built-for-purpose calipers. 

The practitioner would take a reading from various parts of the body, Including up to 14 or more sites. Approximately 2-3 measures (mm) are taken from each site, which is then divided to get a mean (average).   

For measuring body fat percentage, a  practitioner would add up the total in mm and compare it to a chart to identify if the client is within a healthy range. For example, 60-80mm would be ‘good’ and ≥150mm would rank poorly. From a choice equation, a practitioner can then calculate body fat % (i.e., 0.29669 X sum of skinfold measurements). 

In my opinion, the simple skin fold test is the top 5 measures of giving a near-accurate body fat percentage.

Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA)

Think of this as more of a body fat calculator as opposed to anything weight like weight. BIA can estimate body fat by sending electrical waves through the body.[2] Adipose, more formally known as fat, draws more resistance against the waves. So the higher the fat mass of an individual, the higher the BIA reading will be. 

These usually come in a cheap handheld gadget, where you simply grasp the gadget and after a few seconds, it gives you reading. You can also purchase a weight scale that has a built-in BIA where you would place your feet, giving you multiple body fat-related measures. 

A downfall of the BIA is that there can be errors in measurements from hydration level. Water can add resistance to the waves, giving the impression of having a higher body fat percentage with the more you have consumed. 

My suggestion would be to always conduct the BIA under similar hydration levels so you can get an idea of a change in body composition. 

Body Circumference Measurements

Body fat is essentially a mass that is measurable. To identify how much body fat there is, you can simply wrap a tape measure around a site[3] which gives you a reading i.e., a waist circumference of 36”. The same procedure can take place at various sites, like the upper arm, upper leg, lower leg, etc.

The measures can then be compared to a chart to identify if there is ‘too much fat’. This method can be used with a variety of other methods to give a more accurate idea of where an individual stands in terms of overall body fat percentage. For example, you can combine this with BMI, Skin fold, BIA, etc. 

Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) 

This DEXA is generally a more expensive method of testing body fat percentage, along with bone density. It costs around £200-£300 and can only be done from the laboratory or hospital setting. 

I can say that I have actually had the DEXA scan free of cost, as it was a part of my master’s degree. The DEXA uses X-ray beams[4] to subtract how much fat and bone are on the frame. It breaks down the fat percentage of every single part of the body, from the limbs to the trunk of the body. 

To conduct the DEXA, an individual will lay on the DEXA platform, where a qualified professional will input all of the required data i.e., age, height, weight, and gender. The DEXA will then scan over the body. I must warn you that the DEXA can not be used frequently as it poses a risk of ionizing radiation, which increases the risk of cancer. 

Hydrostatic Weighing & Body Fat Percentage Analysis 

This is a very interesting way of testing for lean mass. When we are submerged in water, what makes us sink to the bottom is lean tissue like muscle, bone, and organs. The tissue that does not weigh us down in the water is fat and air. 

During testing, an individual is attached to a mechanism that takes weight and allows you to submerge the body underneath the water.[5] An individual must bend at the trunk, dunk under the water, and blow all their air out, and then a conductor will note the weight on the scale. An average weight of 3 attempts is taken. 

Once we have the weight measurement, all we have to do is subtract the underwater weight (fat-free mass) from the normal weight. This gives us the body fat percentage. For example, if your underwater weight is 60kg and your normal weight is 80 kg, you are holding 20 kg of fat. This puts you at 25% body fat. 

The Bod Pod 

The body pod is an egg-shaped pod where an individual sits inside and the air is then displaced, which assesses body density. From body density, we are able to determine which percentage of the body is fat. A subject being tested would only wear tight compression pants to ensure that air is not trapped within the clothing. This would give an inaccurate reading. 

The individual would sit still in the pod for no longer than 50 seconds. 


This is probably the simplest method of giving the idea that an individual has a high level of body weight.[6] To test body weight, you must either purchase a weight scale or visit a health care center that may have the most accurate models. Most modern scales measure weight in varying metrics like stones, kg, and lbs. 

An individual would simply step on top of the scale, which will then give a reading, i.e. 80 kg. The method to get the most accurate reading would be to weigh yourself in the morning on an empty stomach (after a bowel movement), with minimal clothing (in a private setting). This method will give you a more accurate reading of body mass instead of the weight of other elements like clothing and stool. 

Furthermore, the scale is best placed on a solid and flat surface before taking the reading. This will give a more accurate weight from the ground reaction force from the ground, instead of a spongy surface i.e., carpet. A soft surface would absorb some of the weight and give a lower and inaccurate reading. 

However, this method has many limitations, as bone density, fat mass, and muscle mass vary from individual to individual. Therefore, it does not measure body composition.

Body Mass Index (BMI) 

The BMI gives an idea of whether an individual is overweight. A simple equation of weight divided by height x height. For example, if an individual presented a height of 1.75m and a weight of 80 kg, the equation would be as follows; 

1.75 x 1.75 = 3.0625m2. 

80 kg/ 3.0625m2 = 26.12 

This reading of 26.12 would then be compared to the BMI chart which would be slightly overweight. However, the BMI method only looks at overall body mass and does not take into account, bone density and muscle mass, therefore may only be useful to some population groups. 

If we were to apply the BMI chart to children, the elderly, and athletes, it would not make sense as these population groups have different levels of muscle and bone weight. An elderly individual may have lower muscle and bone weight, whereas an athlete may exceed the norm and lap into a higher range. 


The simplest way of assessing body fat percentage. You simply look in the mirror to identify if you are carrying too much fat. Now I understand that your judgment may not be that great, but you can always ask a healthcare professional like a personal trainer to assess you. Further testing may be required if you believe that you have a high-fat composition. 

Personally, I went by the mirror and checked the size of my midsection and if there were any visible abdominals. This may not be the most accurate way to check body fat percentage, as people store fat in different areas and it can be difficult to determine overall body fat. 

Waist-Hip Ratio 

You could conduct a waist-to-hip ratio, which is not so much telling us how much fat an individual is holding but is more important to determine their risk of weight-related illness. 

To conduct this test a practitioner would use a flexible measuring tape and wrap[7] it around the most narrowing part of the waist, then note down the reading. The practitioner would then measure around the hip bones from where the buttocks protrude. 

The next procedure is to divide the weight measurement by the hips. A ratio of higher than 1.0 for males and 0.85 for females puts them at risk of weight-related diseases.

What Is Body Fat?

What Is Body Fat
Body fat distribution depends on genetics, age, gender,… Photo: Shutterstock

Within the body, we have a number of adipocytes, better understood as fat cells.[8] Consuming too many calories and burning far too less can result in a caloric surplus. Over time, a caloric surplus can cause fat cells to become saturated with the excess. This is basically a physiological defense mechanism to store energy for later use. 

An individual’s fat cells will get larger and larger, to a point where they can no longer add in more calories. The body will then multiply the fat cells, increasing the potential to get fatter, thereby elevating a person’s body fat percentage. 

Body fat distribution will depend on variables like genetics, age, gender, etc. For example, women are more susceptible to holding a greater number of fat cells around the hips and lower stomach. 

Why Does Body Fat Percentage Matter?

Being able to identify excess body fat percentage does not just matter, it is crucial from a health perspective. Upon recognizing that you may present a body percentage that is a little high, you can act promptly with diet and exercise interventions. 

In turn, this can help lose weight from visceral fat, thereby warding off weight-related illnesses like; obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart/cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, etc.

Losing weight can also reduce the risk of falls with subsequent blunt force injuries like fractures, muscle strains, and joint sprains. 

Moreover, losing subcutaneous fat can be a nice touch in terms of body shape and appearance, as a normal body fat level is more admired in the 21st century.

Healthy Body Fat Standards

The healthy body fat percentage range is around 20% for men and up to 32% for females. For men, when you start falling too far below that, say 8% your body fat can get to an unhealthy range. The last thing you want to do is to lose your essential fat, which is the fat we need for survival. Exceeding 25% starts bringing us into the overweight and obese range, which poses a risk to many diseases.


It is important to be able to identify where you stand in terms of body fat. This allows you to make prompt lifestyle adjustments to maintain a healthy body fat standard

There are 10 methods that you could use to estimate your body fat and weight which include;

  • Skinfold Testing 
  • BIA
  • Body Circumference Measures 
  • DEXA
  • Hydrostatic Weighing & Body Fat Analysis 
  • The Bod Pod 
  • Weight 
  • BMI
  • Appearance 
  • Hip-Waist Ratio 

All in all, understanding body fat is an important component of maintaining overall health and well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the cheapest and easiest way to test body fat?

It’s probably between the BIA and skinfold testing as they are simple and actually assess body fat levels.

How can I improve my body composition?

Find a way to eat less food and stay more active, as well as engage in a resistance training exercise

Who would you recommend the DEXA to for body fat testing?

Most probably the athlete population, as for them more accurate measurements may be more important for athletic performance. It could just be a waste of money for the general population

Why is BMI not the best for body fat testing?

Because it gives us an idea of body mass and if someone is over or underweight, but there are many variables that could put someone high on the BMI scale but not actually have high-fat mass

Which method would you recommend to someone who wants to do self-testing?

Probably BIA combined with weight on some bathroom scales and BMI

+ 8 sources

MIDSS adheres to strict procurement guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutes, and medical associations. We work mainly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure the accuracy of the information. We avoid the use of tertiary references. You can read about how we ensure the accuracy and timeliness of our content in our editorial process.

  1. Demura, S. and Sato, S. (2007). Suprailiac or Abdominal Skinfold Thickness Measured with a Skinfold Caliper as a Predictor of Body Density in Japanese Adults. The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine, [online] 213(1), pp.51–61. doi:10.1620/tjem.213.51.
  2. McLester, C.N., Nickerson, B.S., Kliszczewicz, B.M. and McLester, J.R. (2020). Reliability and Agreement of Various InBody Body Composition Analyzers as Compared to Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry in Healthy Men and Women. Journal of Clinical Densitometry, [online] 23(3), pp.443–450. doi:10.1016/j.jocd.2018.10.008.
  3. Das, A., Saimala, G., Reddy, N., Mishra, P., Giri, R., Kumar, A., Raj, A., Kumar, G., Chaturvedi, S., Babu, S., Srikantiah, S. and Mahapatra, T. (2020). Mid-upper arm circumference as a substitute of the body mass index for assessment of nutritional status among adult and adolescent females: learning from an impoverished Indian state. Public Health, [online] 179, pp.68–75. doi:10.1016/j.puhe.2019.09.010.
  4. McLester, C.N., Nickerson, B.S., Kliszczewicz, B.M. and McLester, J.R. (2020). Reliability and Agreement of Various InBody Body Composition Analyzers as Compared to Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry in Healthy Men and Women. Journal of Clinical Densitometry, [online] 23(3), pp.443–450. doi:10.1016/j.jocd.2018.10.008.
  5. Gater, D.R., Farkas, G.J., Dolbow, D.R., Berg, A. and Gorgey, A.S. (2021). Body Composition and Metabolic Assessment After Motor Complete Spinal Cord Injury: Development of a Clinically Relevant Equation to Estimate Body Fat. Topics in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation, [online] 27(1), pp.11–22. doi:10.46292/sci20-00079.
  6. Das, A., Saimala, G., Reddy, N., Mishra, P., Giri, R., Kumar, A., Raj, A., Kumar, G., Chaturvedi, S., Babu, S., Srikantiah, S. and Mahapatra, T. (2020). Mid-upper arm circumference as a substitute of the body mass index for assessment of nutritional status among adult and adolescent females: learning from an impoverished Indian state. Public Health, [online] 179, pp.68–75. doi:10.1016/j.puhe.2019.09.010.
  7. ‌Das, A., Saimala, G., Reddy, N., Mishra, P., Giri, R., Kumar, A., Raj, A., Kumar, G., Chaturvedi, S., Babu, S., Srikantiah, S. and Mahapatra, T. (2020). Mid-upper arm circumference as a substitute of the body mass index for assessment of nutritional status among adult and adolescent females: learning from an impoverished Indian state. Public Health, [online] 179, pp.68–75. doi:10.1016/j.puhe.2019.09.010.‌
  8. Cohen, P. and Spiegelman, B.M. (2016). Cell biology of fat storage. Molecular Biology of the Cell, [online] 27(16), pp.2523–2527. doi:10.1091/mbc.e15-10-0749.


Zaakir Shakoor, Nutritionist
Nutrition, Exercise & Health Specialist/Writer
Zack Shakoor Kayani was born and raised in the South East of England/London. Zack has attained a bolus of knowledge regarding biosciences through academia and his career experiences. In terms of his educational background, he has a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology (Hons.), a Postgraduate diploma in sports nutrition with the International Olympic Committee, and a Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences from Middlesex University. Zack has been fortunate enough to apply his Exercise Science and Nutrition Knowledge to aid Hundreds if not Thousands of Patients and Athletes, providing 1-1 consultation, Personal training, Information sheets, offering recommendations to collate nutrition and exercise programs, etc. Not to mention, in 2022, he authored a book called 'The 'Good' Coach Weight Loss Solution.


Drew is a retired ENT doctor who now lives in the Southeastern US. He was a member of the American Academy of Otolaryngology and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He has a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Psychology and an MD degree. He completed his internship in General Surgery and Residency in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and practiced for almost 30 years in all aspects of ENT, including a specialization in disorders of the ear and skull base. Drew is passionate about communicating his clinical experiences and making his knowledge more accessible to the general public by medical writing.

Help us rate this article

Thank you for your feedback

Keep in touch to see our improvement