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Best Body Fat Monitors

Updated August 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 53 Models Considered
  • 10 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 142 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best body fat monitors

    Last Updated August 2018

    If you can pinch a lot more than an inch, you might feel inspired to lose weight, tone up, and improve your health. And while one of the easiest ways to track weight gain or loss is simply by noting how your clothes fit, more high-tech methods, such as body fat monitors, give you data to chart and let you see your progress at a glance.

    While body fat monitors were once only available to personal trainers, dieticians, and other health experts, now you can easily check your body fat percentage at home.

    Seeing that number in black and white can be all the inspiration you need to continue your healthy eating habits and exercise program.

    But how do you choose the right body fat monitor? After all, there are several different types available and many brands and models from which to choose.

    Read the instructions before using your body fat monitor to determine what settings to select. The wrong settings will invalidate the test.

    That’s why BestReviews decided to do the research for you and bring you this helpful and unbiased guide to choosing the best body fat monitor for home use.We do our own research, talk to fitness experts and health experts like our consultant, Dr. Schreiber, and listen to feedback from owners of products. That’s why we can give you buying advice without bias.

    So, if you just want to buy a body fat monitor and get started on the road to health, see our product recommendations. If you’d like to learn more about body fat monitors in general, including how to choose and use them, read our shopping guide.

    Dr. Schreiber
    EXPERT CONSULTANT

    Dr. Schreiber earned a bachelor of science in dietetics with a minor in biology from the University of Delaware, then continued at the University of Bridgeport in Bridgeport, CT, earning his doctorate of chiropractic and master’s degree in human nutrition. He is double board certified in rehabilitation and clinical nutrition. He has been featured in prominent publications such as the Huffington Post, livestrong.com, and WebMD.com.


    Dr. Schreiber  |  Chiropractic Physician, Acupuncturist, Nutritionist

    Types of body fat monitors

    There are three basic types of body fat monitors. Two of them – body fat scales and handheld body fat monitors – use bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) to determine your body fat percentage. The devices send a very low electrical charge through your body: the lower body in the case of body fat scales and the upper body for handheld body fat monitors. The amount of water found in body tissues impedes (or obstructs) the electrical current to a different extent depending on whether the tissue is fat, muscle, or bone. By measuring that impedance, the device can calculate the percentage of body fat.

    Calipers are a “pinch an inch” way to measure body fat; no electrical current is involved. With these simple devices, which are similar to measuring tapes with clamps, skin folds are measured on three or more parts of the body, most commonly the abdomen, upper arm, and thigh. The resulting measurements are plugged into a formula that calculates body fat percentage. Calipers are most often used at health clubs or fitness centers. It’s nearly impossible to accurately use one by yourself, but some people do buy them for home use.

    Pros

    • Inexpensive.

    • Safe for people with pacemakers.
       

    Cons

    • Hard to use on yourself.

    • Must test the same spots each time for accurate results.

    • Measures only subcutaneous fat, not visceral fat, the more dangerous type.

    Before using a body fat monitor, enter all the required information, such as age and gender. If these are entered incorrectly, the monitor will give you a false reading. One of the most common mistakes newcomers to body fat monitors make is not entering the correct parameters, such as male or female, athletic or sedentary.

    Body fat scales are easy to use: just step onto the scale in bare feet. Most can report several measurements beyond body fat, such as total weight, hydration level, body mass index (BMI), lean body mass, and bone weight. This is the most popular type of body fat monitor for home use.

    Pros

    • Quick and easy to use.

    • Easy to track fitness progress.

    • Most provide other measurements, including weight.

    • Fairly inexpensive.
       

    Cons

    • Can be inaccurate (skewed by hydration level, dirty feet, recent exercise, or using the scale right after a meal).
       

    Handheld body fat monitors use the same principle as a body fat scale to calculate your numbers, but instead of standing on the device, you hold it in your hands. These are used extensively at fitness centers for quick body fat measurements, but some people like them for home use as well.

    Pros

    • Easy to use.

    • No need to remove shoes.

    • No interference from dirty feet or thick foot calluses.
       

    Cons

    • Can be inaccurate (skewed by hydration level, recent exercise, or using the scale right after a meal).

    • Only measures body fat and BMI, not weight.

    EXPERT TIP

    Handheld body fat monitors measure upper body fat and use that number to calculate total body fat percentage. Body fat scales calculate the total body fat percentage from measurements on the lower body.


    Dr. Schreiber  | Chiropractic Physician, Acupuncturist, Nutritionist

    Body fat monitor features to consider

    While different models of body fat calipers and handheld body fat monitors are generally the same, body fat scales offer many different features. Here are some worth considering.

    “Athletic” setting

    This setting is for people in good shape who have a higher percentage of muscle and a lower percentage of body fat. If you fall into this group, you’ll get results that are more accurate with a scale offering this setting.

    Multiple body composition measurements

    Along with weight and percentage of body fat, you’ll find scales that measure bone mass, muscle weight, water weight, metabolism, body age, visceral fat, and BMI.

    The best way to measure total body fat using bioelectrical impedance is with a step-on model that has hand grips. The grips measure both upper and lower body fat composition. Bioelectrical impedance really only gives estimates, but it’s a great method for quickly checking trends over a period of time.

    WiFi or Bluetooth

    Many high-tech body fat scales have apps that store your numbers, create graphs to chart your progress, and give you a variety of helpful motivators to keep you on track for healthy living. These scales have WiFi or Bluetooth capabilities to connect to your smartphone.

    Multi-user memory

    If the whole family wants to use the scale, choose one with a multi-user capability so everyone’s results can be stored separately.

    Large display

    Your results don’t do you much good if they’re too small to read. Your scale should have a large lighted display that’s easy to read.

    FOR YOUR SAFETY

    Wipe your scale’s surface with an alcohol wipe or pad after each use to remove dust, oil, or sweat residue that might affect the measurements.

    Body fat monitor prices

    • Calipers

    You can buy a good body fat caliper for less than $10.

    • Body fat scales

    You can buy a fairly basic scale with body fat capabilities for around $25. If you want one that offers a wider range of body composition measurements, links to your phone, and promises greater accuracy, expect to pay between $30 and $50.

    • Handheld body fat monitors

    While you can find handheld body fat monitors for as little as $20, you’ll get much better accuracy and a more extended range of body composition measurements in the $25 to $50 range.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Body fat measurements are calculations, so they may not be entirely accurate. For more accurate results, drink a glass of water an hour before testing.

    Tips

    Body fat monitors do not directly measure the percentage of fat in your body. Instead, they determine body density and use that information to estimate your body fat.

    You can help improve the accuracy of the results by following these tips:

    • Place your scale on hard flooring, not carpet.

    • Enter the required information, which at a minimum includes age and gender, for an accurate calculation of your body fat percentage.

    • Always use your body fat scale at the same time of day, preferably in the morning before eating and after using the bathroom.

    • For the most accurate weight results, measure yourself while naked.

    • Drink a cup of water an hour or so before using your scale so you’re hydrated but not overly so. Do not measure your body fat right after drinking a lot of liquids, as this skews the results.

    • Don’t exercise right before measuring body fat. Sweating will alter your results.

    • Before stepping onto your body fat scale, your feet should be bare, clean, dry, and free of thick calluses.

    • Center yourself on the scale so your feet cover the sensors and your weight is balanced over both feet.

    Treat your body fat monitor gently. Dropping it or handling it roughly could break the device or lead to inaccurate results.

    FAQ

    Q. Are body fat monitors accurate?

    A. While body fat scales and monitors are a great way to track your fat loss or gain and are generally quite accurate when it comes to weight, the devices can be off by a fair percentage – some by as much as 20% – when it comes to calculating your body fat. You can help improve the accuracy by following the tips above. Still, you should use the results to track progress, not as an absolute.

    Q. Is it safe to use a body fat monitor if I have a pacemaker?

    A. While the amount of electrical current sent through the body by body fat scales and monitors is extremely low, these devices are not recommended for use by anyone with an implanted pacemaker without prior approval by a medical professional.

    Q. What is a healthy percentage of body fat?

    A. The answer depends on your age and gender, but according to the American Council on Exercise, an adult woman in good condition will have a body fat percentage between 21% and 24%. An average woman’s body fat is between 25% and 31%. Anything over 32% is considered overweight. Men in good condition have body fat percentages of 14% to 17%. Average men have 18% to 24% body fat. Men with 25% or more body fat are considered overweight.

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