How to Calculate Body Fat With a Tape Measure

Three Parts:Measuring Guidelines for MalesMeasuring Guidelines for FemalesUsing a Tape Measure to Determine Body Fat

Body fat percentages vary based on your weight, height, and even by your genetics. Everyone needs a certain amount of body fat to store energy and for overall normal functioning of the body (like maintaining body temperature or protecting your organs).[1] You can get your body fat measured at a health club or a doctor's office, or by calculating with a tape measure at home. The U.S. Navy developed the Navy Circumference Measure test to help accurately determine body fat percentages. This is a simple and easy way to calculate an estimated amount of body fat percentage to help you set goals, maintain health, or lose weight.

Part 1
Measuring Guidelines for Males

  1. Image titled Calculate Body Fat With a Tape Measure Step 1
    1
    Measure your neck. The first measurement for males is measuring the neck. Follow these guidelines to make sure your measurement is accurate:
    • Locate the measuring tape just below the Adam's apple (larynx).
    • Lay the tape flat and pull the tape around the circumference of the neck. Keep your shoulders straight and keep the tape as straight as possible.
    • Note and record the measurement.
    • For an example, your neck measurement might be 18 inches.
  2. Image titled Calculate Body Fat With a Tape Measure Step 2
    2
    Measure your abdomen. Measuring your core is an essential part of your body fat as this is an area of the body that may contain higher amounts of body fat.
    • Guide the measuring tape around the waist at the belly button.
    • Breathe in and exhale normally.
    • Record the abdomen measurement after you have released the breath.
    • For example your abdomen may measure at 35inches.
  3. Image titled Calculate Body Fat With a Tape Measure Step 3
    3
    Measure your height. Your body fat percentage is dependent on your height making this a necessary measurement.
    • Stand straight against a wall or other flat surface.
    • Pull your shoulders back, keep your head up, and look straight ahead.
    • Use a ruler or straight edge against the top of your head and push it against the wall. Make a mark with a pencil on this location.
    • Extend the measuring tape from the floor up to the pencil mark on the wall.
    • Record this measurement.
    • An example would be a height of 72 inches or 6 foot.
  4. Image titled Calculate Body Fat With a Tape Measure Step 4
    4
    Enter your recorded data into the correct equation. Use the following equation to find body fat percentage for men:
    • For males: %Fat=495/(1.0324-0.19077(log(waist-neck))+0.15456(log(height)))-450
    • Using the above examples, here is how the equation would work: body fat% = 495/(1.0324-0.19077(log(35-18))+0.15456(log(72)))-450
    • The result should be a decimal number. In this particular example, the man's body fat percentage will be 12.6%.
  5. Image titled Calculate Body Fat With a Tape Measure Step 5
    5
    Interpret your results. You result will fall into a category that can help you get an idea if you're at an appropriate weight.
    • Men typically carry about 2-4% of essential body fat. Falling below your essential body fat percentage is dangerous. Your body's fat stores have an active role in the regular functioning and protection of your body.
    • Athletes may have a body fat of 6-13%, people who are physically fit generally fall between 14-17% body fat, average or moderate fit men may have a body fat of 18-25%, and men who are overweight or obese will have a body fat of 26% or more.

Part 2
Measuring Guidelines for Females

  1. Image titled Calculate Body Fat With a Tape Measure Step 6
    1
    Measure your neck. As with men, women also need to measure their necks in order to calculate their body fat percentage.
    • Locate the measuring tape just below the larynx.
    • Lay the tape flat and pull the tape around the circumference of the neck. Keep your shoulders straight and keep the tape as straight as possible.
    • Note and record the measurement.
    • For example, your neck may measure at 15 inches.
  2. Image titled Calculate Body Fat With a Tape Measure Step 7
    2
    Measure your abdomen. Women also tend to store more body fat in their abdomen.
    • Guide the measuring tape around the circumference of the waist at the most narrow point. This point falls somewhere between the belly button and the sternum.
    • Breathe in and exhale normally.
    • Record the abdomen measurement at the end of the breath.
    • An example would be your abdomen measuring at 28 inches.
  3. Image titled Calculate Body Fat With a Tape Measure Step 8
    3
    Measure your hips. Women may carry more body fat around their hips compared to men. Including this measurement helps make your results more accurate.
    • Wrap the measuring tape around the hips so that it winds around the widest part of the buttocks.
    • Place the tape flat against the skin to get the most accurate measurement. If you are wearing clothing, wear a thin layer that will not affect the measurement significantly.
    • Record this measurement.
    • An example of your hip measurement might be 32 inches.
  4. Image titled Calculate Body Fat With a Tape Measure Step 9
    4
    Measure your height. Remember, body fat percentage is based on height.
    • Stand straight against a wall or other flat surface.
    • Pull your shoulders back, keep your head up, and look straight ahead.
    • Use a ruler or straight edge against the top of your head and push it against the wall. Make a mark with a pencil on this location.
    • Extend the measuring tape from the floor up to the pencil mark on the wall.
    • Record this measurement.
    • An example of your height may be 5'6" or 65 inches.
  5. Image titled Calculate Body Fat With a Tape Measure Step 10
    5
    Enter your recorded data into the correct equation. Use the following equation to find body fat percentage for women:
    • For females: %Fat=495/(1.29579-0.35004(log(waist+hip-neck))+0.22100(log(height)))-450
    • Using the above examples, your body fat percentage equation will be: body fat = 495/(1.29579-0.35004(log(28+32-15))+0.22100(log(65)))-450
    • The result should be a decimal number. In this example, the women's body fat percentage is 14.6%.
  6. Image titled Calculate Body Fat With a Tape Measure Step 11
    6
    Interpret your results. You result will fall into a category that can help you get an idea if you're at an appropriate weight.
    • Women typically carry about 10-12% of essential body fat. This is higher than men's essential body fat as women's body are designed to have enough body fat to support a possible pregnancy.[2]
    • Athletes may have a body fat of 14-20%, people who are physically fit generally fall between 21-24% body fat, average or moderate fit women may have a body fat of 25-31%, and women who are overweight or obese will have a body fat of 32% or more.

Part 3
Using a Tape Measure to Determine Body Fat

  1. Image titled Calculate Body Fat With a Tape Measure Step 12
    1
    Purchase a tape measure. When you're performing this test at home, you'll need to have an appropriate tape measure ready to use.
    • It's recommended to buy a fiber glass measuring tape. It needs to be a non-stretchable material to help provide you with the most accurate results.[3]
    • Make sure your tape measure is accurate. Compare measurements with a standardized ruler or yard stick.
  2. Image titled Calculate Body Fat With a Tape Measure Step 13
    2
    Take measurements accurately. When you're measuring your body fat percentage with a tape measure, you'll need to know how to use it correctly to get the most accurate results.[4]
    • When taking measurements, make sure the tape measure makes contact with the skin. It should conform to your body. Pull taught, but not so much that the tape makes an indentation in your skin.[5]
    • The most common cause of errors is using the measuring tape wrong or making inaccurate measurements.
  3. Image titled Calculate Body Fat With a Tape Measure Step 14
    3
    Retake each measurement 3 times. It's recommended to take each of the required measurements 3 times to the most accurate results.
    • Jot down each of your recorded measurements. Round to the nearest half inch.[6]
    • It's recommended to take an entire set of measurements (waist, hip, neck, arm) instead of doing the waist 3 times, the hips 3 times, etc.[7]
    • After all 3 measurements have been take for each body part, take the average of the measurements and use this new number in the equations.

Things You'll Need

  • tape measure
  • ruler or straight edge
  • scientific calculator

Article Info

Categories: Diet & Lifestyle