Health / Lifestyle / Wellbeing

Do you know your body composition?

Vanessa Pike-Russell

When I was on a spa break at Champneys last week I decided to have InBody analysis to find out my body composition. I know my weight and BMI, but those measurements don’t tell the whole story about how healthy you are. InBody measures your water, protein and mineral levels, muscle and fat distribution, BMI, waist-to-hip ratio and metabolic rate – and it does it all in under one minute. Amazing!

The InBody machine looks like a big set of weighing scales that you stand on. There’s a touch-screen monitor on a pedestal in front of you, which you use to key in your age and height, and there are two skinny “arms” with metal sensors on the ends that you hold between your fingers and thumbs. The machine takes your weight, and then starts analysing. Here’s the science bit: it works by using bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), which means it sends a low-level and painless electrical pulse through the body. The pulse travels easily through water, blood and muscle, but less easily through fat and bone, and that’s how it measures what your body is made up of.

You get a colourful print-out of your results that gives you both a basic analysis and a more complex one. The basic analysis is a column of tick boxes that indicates if your nutrient, muscle and fat levels are “normal”, “under” or “extremely over”. And a box that suggests how many kgs of fat and muscle you need to lose or gain. The more complex analysis is a stack of charts that show your accurate stats, and how they compare to normal ranges. The really clever bit is that is also gives you a segmental analysis, calculating your muscle and fat distribution across your right arm, left arm, right leg, left leg and trunk. Those gym-goers who skip leg day will have nowhere to hide.

And that’s the point. You might be horrified by the thought of seeing your stats in black and white, or think you already know which bits need attention in the gym. But get over it. This test isn’t about how much you weigh or how you look, it’s about your all-round health. If your mineral levels are low, you could be at risk of osteoporosis; if your muscle is all in your legs then you need to do some arm work; if you’re obese, then you should do something about it. It’s also a handy tool if you’re training for an event and you want to know which areas you should be targeting. Finally, your print-out suggests a list of activities, and calculates how many calories you would burn doing 30 minutes of each based on your body composition. Apparently Taekwondo and Oriental Fencing are the most efficient workouts for me. I’d better book some lessons.

InBody analysis is £15 for Champneys guests. It is also available at some gyms and health centres.

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