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Living well

Measuring tools to assist in maintaining a healthy weight range

You can tell by looking at AFL players or other professional athletes that they carry minimal body fat. For AFL clubs, this is an exact science, measured using a variety of methods to determine an athlete’s body composition. The average person however doesn’t usually have access to the most accurate of testing methods, and may instead work out whether or not their weight is in a healthy range through Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference measurements.

Fun Fact
Most clubs like players to be under 45-50mm in total (a measurement of subcutaneous fat, using calipers).

The results from tests that most people have never heard of (including; Regular anthropometric skinfold testing (‘The pinch test’), dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), bioelectrical impedance (BIA), and Bodpods) give sports science staff a prediction of an athlete’s physique (fat and lean muscle mass). These methods involve trained experts, are often costly, and are not commonly used amongst the general public. 


It is important however that we care about our own body composition. Being overweight or obese often leads to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and abnormal blood glucose responses. These conditions play a role in the development of heart disease, stroke, several cancers, as well as type 2 diabetes.

So how can you work out whether you are in the healthy weight range? 


1. Body Mass Index (BMI)
BMI is a simple way to work out an estimate of body fatness.  It does not directly measure fat, as it only takes into account height and weight, but it is a useful screening tool to identify whether or not a person might have a weight-related health issue. 
Athletes with higher amounts of muscle mass, women who are pregnant or lactating, children, adolescents and the elderly (who have lost muscle mass) are advised not to use the BMI.  Therefore BMI is best used in healthy adults. 

To calculate your BMI, you will need to know: 
  • Your weight in kilograms 
  • Your height in metres
  • It is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared (m2).
For example, Jo weighs 80kgs and is 1.83m tall.
His BMI can be calculated in the following manner;
80/1.832=23.89
Jo’s BMI is within the healthy weight range.
If you have a BMI of: 
  • Under 18.5 – you are underweight and possibly malnourished. 
  • 18.5 to 24.9 – you have a healthy weight range for young and middle-aged adults. 
  • 25.0 to 29.9 – you are overweight. 
  • Over 30 – you are obese.

2. Waist Circumference 

Waist circumference is another simple measure that can be a good indicator of internal fat deposits, which can coat the heart, kidneys, liver and pancreas, and increase the risk of chronic disease.   Again this measurement should only be used in adults to check the risk of developing a chronic disease. Measurements that indicate increased risks for children and teenagers have not yet been developed. 

Measuring your waist 
To find out your level of risk, it is important to measure your waist circumference accurately. 
  • Place the tape measure directly on your skin in line with your belly button. 
  • Breathe normally and take the measurement in centimeters
Waist circumference Women Men
Increased risk 80cm or more 94cm or more
Substantial risk 88cm or more 102 cm or more

Both of these measurements compliment each other. BMI will indicate your level of fatness, whilst waist circumference will shine some light on where the fat stored and whether you should pay attention to it. Remember even if your BMI is normal but you have a waist measurement above 94cm for men and 80cm for women you may be at risk of serious chronic disease.


So get measuring! 
If you are concerned about your weight, it's a good idea to raise this with your GP, or see a Dietitian to discuss your individual situation.

Sophy Foreman has established a reputation in Western Australia as a leading High Performance Sports Dietitian. She currently pursues her passion in this area by working with a number of elite sports teams including; The Emirates Western Force, WA Rugby Academy, and The Perth Glory. She also worked for The Fremantle Dockers for six seasons (2005-2011).

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