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Mike isn’t someone you’d call obese. At six feet tall, and weighing in at 160 pounds, you’ll never see him on “The Biggest Loser” or even at Weight Watchers. Yet, he’s definitely “skinny fat.”
What Does it Mean?
“Skinny fat,” along with a lot of related (and equally uncool) terms, describes someone who may be light or look thin, but actually has a high level of body fat.
Why Should You Avoid It?
Esthetics aside, being “skinny fat” comes with some health perils. Skinny fat people are still prone to many of the same health concerns as those who are more conventionally obese. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The difference: Unless you’re having annual checkups, you may be fooling yourself into thinking you’re immune to these issues, simply because you’re not overweight.
Ways to Identify Skinny Fat
So how can someone like Mike know for sure if he’s healthy or skinny fat? Until recently, he could know this by determining his Body Mass Index (BMI): a person’s weight in kilograms (kg) divided by his or her height in meters squared. But BMI is an imperfect measurement. As reported by the Harvard School of Public Health, “BMI is not a perfect measure because it does not directly assess body fat.”
Instead of focusing solely on weight or BMI, try to incorporate a body fat measurement. Techniques range from the use of skin-fold calipers, to bioelectric impedance and hydrostatic measurements, all of which are designed to estimate the amount of fat in someone’s body relative to their overall body weight.
Someone like Mike might be shocked to find that despite his healthy weight and BMI, he has an unhealthy body fat percentage. Another useful measurement is a blood lipid profile, which looks at chemicals in the blood to help gauge a person’s overall health. For example, if Mike turns out to have high “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels, he’s at greater risk for cardiovascular disease.
If he gets that diagnosis, Mike can start to whittle away at that unwanted mass by developing a solid workout program incorporating both cardiovascular exercise and resistance training, such as weightlifting. This solid combination can decrease fat levels, while increasing lean muscle mass to truly improve overall health.
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