Anthropometric measurements are one way of assessing and conceptualizing a person’s total body fat. The measurements are usually done in a series, and typically include things like weight and height as well as skin fold density and measurements taken at certain precise points, in particular the hips and the wrist. Those tabulating the numbers, usually doctors, nurses, or fitness professionals, use the results to make assessments about a person’s overall health. Particularly in children, the numbers can also be an indication of growth progress. Measurements that are higher or lower than average often signal a problem with normal development. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that “average” results are just that — some people are naturally higher or lower while still being perfectly healthy. Concerns are usually only justified when measurements fall far outside the normal range.
Understanding Body Fat Generally
Body fat can be hard to measure since so much of it occurs internally. The results can be seen on the outside in many cases, but it still can be challenging to get an accurate picture of how much there really is on sight alone. The main goal of anthropometric measurements is take a number of different factors into account, and to use measurements of different parts of the body in order to get a better sense of the total fat situation. Results aren’t foolproof, but they can usually give clinicians and healthcare providers a rough sense of how a person is doing, which often leads into a plan for positive change.
Height, weight, and skin fold thickness are usually the core elements. Bodily circumference at the waist, hip, chest, and wrist factor in, too. To measure weight, the examiner may use a self-zeroing scale, although these scales have to be recalibrated often. To measure the height, the examiner may use a device that looks like a vertical ruler; it consists of a sliding horizontal rod or paddle that will rest on the person’s head. The person will stand straight against the device with feet together to give an accurate measurement.
To measure the skin folds, the examiner will take measurements over several different areas of the body, such as the arm, lower hips, and lower ribs of the chest. These numbers are then averaged together to get a more accurate reading. In most cases the measurements are done on the right side of the body unless there is a medical reason not to do so.
As Concerns Babies and Young Children
One of the most common and routine uses of these measurements is during well-baby check-ups. The examiner will typically measure the baby's length and weight as well as the circumference of the child's head to ensure that growth is on track. The results can indicate problems with brain development and bone growth, and can also highlight nutritional issues the child might be facing. Measurements can also tell the examiner what illnesses a child might be more likely to get, such as anemia from malnutrition. Though the results are in no way definitive, they are often a starting place for identifying and diagnosing other potentially more serious issues.
For Nutritional Purposes
In adults, these numbers are very common when it comes to identifying a person’s “ideal” or “healthy” weight. Doctors typically collect them during routine health checks and, when possible, compare them not just to national or regional averages but also to the specific patient’s personal history. Significant changes over short amounts of time can indicate other issues, even if the readings are still in the normal range. Nutritionist may also use these measurements to help decide the best diet and exercise program for patients hoping to lose weight. Knowing where fat is can lead to more targeted loss programs.
Sports and Military Requirements
Anthropometric measurements are also commonly used by the military to see if recruits are fit for duty. If a recruit is dangerously overweight or has a troublesome fat index, he or she may have trouble during fitness training and be susceptible to illnesses and diseases and this would make him or her unfit for service in the military.
Anthropometric measurements are also used in fitness testing for sports teams. In general. anyone who plans to join a sports team or perform sports or fitness activities should know their fitness level before beginning. An unfit person starting rigorous training could cause severe damage to his body. People who know their relevant measurements can adjust the training program and diet for their specific fitness level, and the likelihood of serious injury may be reduced as a result.