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Body Composition and Physical Fitness
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Body Composition and Physical Fitness

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Body Composition and Physical Fitness

Body Composition: Lean vs. Fat

What is Body Composition?

The fifth basic component of physical fitness, body composition refers to the make-up of the body in terms of lean tissue mass (inc. muscle, bone, tendons and ligaments) and fat tissue mass. In simple terms, body composition is all about our muscle/fat ratio, or our body fat percentage. A healthy muscle-to-fat ratio is a common (but not exclusive) indicator of fitness. A healthy body-fat percentage range for women is about 15-25 percent. For men, body fat should be in the approximate range 10-20 percent.

How Body Composition Affects Fitness

The more lean muscle tissue you have on your body, the more calories you burn while at rest. This is because muscle mass is more metabolically active (uses up more calories) that stored body fat. People with a higher muscle-to-fat ratio (lower body fat percentage) tend to have more efficient systems and a higher fitness level.

How to Test Your Body Composition (Fat)?

There are various methods of measuring body fat. These include: underwater weighing; measuring skin-fold thickness with calipers; bioelectrical impedance. Alternatively, for a quick test, check your body mass index. If it falls outside the healthy range (19-24.9), chances are you have excess fat and your body composition needs improving.

How to Improve Your Body Composition?

There is only one way of improving body composition, in order to achieve an optimal muscle/fat ratio. Eat a sufficient number of food-calories to provide enough energy for your daily metabolic and exercise needs - but NO MORE! Over time, a proper calorie-controlled diet reduces most if not all of your excess body fat.

Exercise to Improve Muscle-to-Fat Ratio

In addition to this dietary approach to lose fat, you need to adopt a physical fitness program to increase muscle mass and assist fat-reduction. To increase muscle tissue, choose a simple strength-training program, including weight-lifting and the use of weight-machines. To reduce fat, include cardio-aerobic exercise like walking, running, treadmill or swimming.

Sources include:
- President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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