Body Composition Tests: Are They Worth It?

6 mins read
 bioelectrical impedance cost
Written by:
The BodySpec Team

Dive into the exciting world of body composition tests and check out our top 5 methods, featuring friendly favorites like DEXA scans, bioelectrical impedance, hydrostatic weighing, air displacement plethysmography, and good ol' skin caliper measurements. Curious about cost? We've got you covered with a comparison of average prices for each test. And don't worry, we'll also help you find a body composition scan close to home. Let's also chat about the differences between body composition and body mass and take a peek at scientific studies that dig into the accuracy and reliability of each method. Join us on this fun-filled journey, and let's explore the ins and outs of body composition testing together!

Understanding Body Composition: The Importance in Health and Fitness

Body composition tests are all the rage. But you might be wondering, are they worth your time and money? The quick answer? Absolutely! Body composition tests can offer you precious insights into your overall health, allowing you to monitor your progress and pinpoint areas that need a little extra attention.

Getting to know your body composition, which is basically the fat-to-lean muscle mass ratio, can empower you to make smarter choices when it comes to exercising and eating right. And who doesn't want that? Ultimately, it can lead you towards better health, peak fitness, and a happier, more vibrant life!

The Top 5 Body Composition Tests

There are several types of body composition tests available, each with its own unique set of benefits and limitations. Here are the top 5:

  1. Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) Scan: DEXA scans are considered the gold standard in body composition testing. They use low-level X-ray beams to differentiate between bone, fat, and lean muscle tissue, providing accurate and detailed information about your body composition. The X-ray provides less radiation than eating 4 bananas - so it’s an inconsequential exposure. Given their incredible accuracy, a DEXA scan is top of this list.

  2. Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA): BIA is a non-invasive method that measures body composition by sending a low-level electrical current through the body. The resistance encountered by the current is used to estimate body fat and lean muscle mass. Companies that use this technology include InBody. It is not considered to be very accurate.

  3. Hydrostatic Weighing: Also known as underwater weighing, this method involves submerging the body in water and measuring its displacement. The difference between your weight on land and underwater is used to calculate body density, from which body composition can be estimated. As you probably guessed, this method is time consuming.

  4. Air Displacement Plethysmography (ADP): ADP uses changes in air pressure to measure body volume, which can be used to determine body composition. This method is often considered more comfortable than hydrostatic weighing, as it does not require submersion in water.

  5. Skin Caliper Measurements: This method uses calipers to measure the thickness of skinfolds at various points on the body. These measurements are used to estimate body fat percentage, but may not provide as accurate results as other methods.

How Body Composition Tests Rank in Terms of Average Cost

Below is a table summarizing the average cost of each body composition test:

Body Composition TestAverage Cost ($)
DEXA Scan$100 - $250 (BodySpec $39.95)
Bioelectrical Impedance$50 - $100
Hydrostatic Weighing$25 - $50
Air Displacement$50 - $100
Skin Caliper Measurements$10 - $30

Finding a Body Composition Scan Near Me: Don't Fret

If you're looking for a body composition scan near you, try Googling the following terms:

  • ”DEXA scan near me"

  • ”bioelectrical impedance analysis near me"

  • ”hydrostatic weighing near me"

  • ”air displacement plethysmography near me"

  • ”body fat caliper testing near me"

Sample Output of the Types of Body Composition Scans

Each type of body composition scan provides different outputs, including:

  • DEXA Scan: Detailed images of body composition, including separate values for bone, fat, and muscle mass broken down by region of body.

  • Bioelectrical Impedance: Estimates of body fat percentage and lean muscle mass.

  • Hydrostatic Weighing: Body density measurements, used to estimate body composition.

  • Air Displacement Plethysmography: Body volume measurements, used to determine body composition.

  • Skin Caliper Measurements: Skinfold thickness measurements, used to estimate body fat percentage.

What Each Body Composition Scan Can Show You

Each body composition test can provide insights into different aspects of your health and fitness:

  • DEXA Scan: A DEXA scan can show you precise measurements of body fat, lean muscle mass, and bone density. This information can help you track your progress, set realistic goals, and make informed decisions about your training and nutrition.

  • Bioelectrical Impedance: This test can provide estimates of body fat percentage and lean muscle mass, which can help you monitor your fitness progress and make adjustments to your workout routine and diet.

  • Hydrostatic Weighing: This method can give you an estimate of your overall body composition, which can help you understand your current fitness level and make necessary adjustments to your training and nutrition plan.

  • Air Displacement Plethysmography: This test can provide you with an estimate of your body composition, which can help you set goals and monitor your progress.

  • Skin Caliper Measurements: While not as accurate as other methods, skin caliper measurements can still give you a rough estimate of your body fat percentage, which can be useful for tracking changes over time.

Why is DEXA Widely Understood to be the Gold-Standard?

DEXA scans are considered superior to other body composition tests due to their high level of accuracy and precision. They provide detailed information about bone density, fat mass, and lean muscle mass, which other methods may not be able to accurately measure. Additionally, DEXA scans are non-invasive and involve only a small amount of radiation exposure, making them a safe and reliable option for body composition testing.

Is Body Composition the Same as Body Mass?

Body composition and body mass are interconnected yet separate concepts that play a significant role in assessing an individual's health and fitness. Body mass refers to the overall weight of a person, which includes everything from bones and muscles to fat and water weight. On the other hand, body composition delves deeper into the distribution of different tissues in the body, such as fat, muscle, and bone.

A person's body composition can offer a more comprehensive understanding of their health and fitness status compared to their body mass alone. For instance, two individuals with the same body mass may have vastly different body compositions, with one having a higher percentage of muscle mass and the other carrying more body fat. This distinction is crucial, as a higher muscle-to-fat ratio is often linked to better health outcomes, lower risk of chronic diseases, and improved physical performance.

By analyzing body composition, individuals, trainers, and healthcare professionals can better tailor exercise routines and nutritional plans to address specific needs and goals. Moreover, tracking changes in body composition over time can help in evaluating the effectiveness of fitness programs and identifying any potential health concerns that may not be apparent through body mass assessment alone. In summary, understanding the nuances between body composition and body mass is essential for making well-informed decisions about one's health and fitness journey.

Into the Science? Here's What Studies Say About Each Type of Body Composition Scan

Numerous scientific studies have been conducted on the various types of body composition tests, examining their accuracy, reliability, and practical applications. In general, DEXA scans have been found to be the most accurate and reliable method for assessing body composition. Other methods, such as bioelectrical impedance and hydrostatic weighing, have been shown to provide reasonably accurate estimates of body composition, but may be less precise than DEXA scans. Skin caliper measurements are generally considered the least accurate method, but can still be useful for tracking changes in body fat over time.

Article Highlights

  • Body composition tests, such as DEXA scans, BIA, hydrostatic weighing, ADP, and skin caliper measurements, provide valuable insights into your overall health and fitness.

  • DEXA scans are considered the gold standard for body composition testing due to their high level of accuracy and precision.

  • Each type of body composition test offers unique advantages and limitations, making it important to choose the best method for your specific needs and goals.

  • Body composition scans can help you set realistic fitness goals, track your progress, and make informed decisions about your training and nutrition.


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Kyle, U. G., Bosaeus, I., De Lorenzo, A. D., Deurenberg, P., Elia, M., Gómez, J. M., ... & Pichard, C. (2004). Bioelectrical impedance analysis—part I: review of principles and methods. Clinical Nutrition, 23(5), 1226-1243.

Heymsfield, S. B., Lichtman, S., Baumgartner, R. N., Wang, J., Kamen, Y., Aliprantis, A., & Pierson, R. N. (1990). Body composition of humans: comparison of two improved four-compartment models that differ in expense, technical complexity, and radiation exposure. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 52(1), 52-58.

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