What does your percent body fat mean?

Your body fat percentage is the percent of fat that your body contains; it's as simple as that. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and have 20 percent body fat, your body contains 30 pounds of fat and 120 pounds of bones, muscles, organs, blood and everything else.

Regardless of what you weigh, your percent of body fat is a strong predictor of your likelihood to have a heart attack, develop heart disease, high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes, or have a stroke. The higher your percentage, the more likely you are to develop these and other obesity-related health problems.

What should your body fat percentage be?

Everyone needs a certain amount of body fat. It regulates your body temperature, it's where your body stores energy, and it protects your organs and tissues. Depending on your age and sex, the healthy body fat ranges for the average adult are:

  Healthy Body Fat Percentage
20 - 39
8% - 19%
21% - 32%
40 - 59
11% - 21%
23% - 33%
60 - 79
13% - 24%
24% - 35%

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

How can you reduce your percent body fat?

First, watch what you eat and drink. Snacks and beverages often contain more calories than most people are aware of. When added to the calories in the food you eat, you may be taking in more calories than you use up each day. If this is the case, your percent body fat will increase.

Second, exercise at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. A balanced combination of aerobics, strength and flexibility exercises is very important for physical functioning (increases strength, flexibility and endurance) — and mental functioning (increases blood flow to your brain cells). Strengthening exercises convert body fat into muscles. This will reduce your percent body fat if you keep a watchful eye on your daily calorie intake.

For more information about a balanced exercise program, including tips for success, visit Senior Exercises — What you should you do for the best results?

For more information about body fat, visit What does your percent body fat mean?

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