Tanita Body Composition Analyzer

Who is Tanita?

Tanita is a 70-year old Japanese firm that has been making precision scales for over 55 years. In 1992 they introduced the first body composition/analyzer scale to the professional market. In 1994 they started selling scales to the consumer market.

While their commercial scales are approved for industrial use, their consumer scales are FDA approved.

A few months ago I tried the Tanita TBF-410 Body Composition Analyzer.

The Tanita scales uses Bioelectric Impedance Analysis (BIA) technology to determine body composition. When you stand on the scale, a 50kHz, 800 micro amp current passes through your body. By measuring the impedance, or resistance to current, the system can measure body mass and composition.

I had the measurement done by a local physical therapy practice at a street fair in a local town. They were looking to drum up business with free measurements and I was looking to try one of these machines. In August 2012, I wrote a post, “What’s Your Number” about obesity and the methods of measuring body composition. In that post I wrote about Bioelectric Impedance Analysis (BIA) and the Tanita scales.

If you own a Garmin watch, you will be happy to know that Tanita scales are compatible with some Garmin watches.

Methods of Measurement

There are a variety of methods to measure body composition. They all have good and bad points.

The BMI test is widely ridiculed as being in-accurate and not worth the effort to calculate. While BMI does not account for body types the only cost to calculate BMI is a few minutes and some simple math. The NIH has a free calculator on-line and all you need to do is plug in your height and weight.

I still think the BMI calculator is a good place to start for most of us. The other methods of measurement are not as accessible.

The “gold standards” of body composition testing are the Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) and Hydrostatic Weighing. These “gold standards” are not generally available to the public and can be expensive. Please see my previous post, “What’s your Number”, for more details on these methods.

I tried to find a DEXA scan in the Boston area. Being the hub of medical research and having so many hospitals and medical professionals, you would think it would be easy.

I found one office that offered it only to their patients and a research facility that offered it only to research subjects. DEXA is commonly used to measure bone density, and as a diagnostic tool for women who may suffer from osteoporosis.

I didn’t qualify for any of the studies and do not have a condition that requires my bones to be scanned.

I haven’t found anyone offering the Hydrostatic Weighing procedure. It requires special equipment and as such, is probably expensive.

While BMI is easy to calculate, it is inaccurate. The “gold standards” are accurate but generally not available. I have studied and written about the Tanita system, so I knew it would offer some interesting data for me . The accuracy of the process may be disputable, but it was FREE and AVAILABLE.

The weigh in

They have different modes on the machine for different types of people. These include, Adult, Athlete and Wrestler. To qualify for Athlete mode you must get 10 hours per week of intense exercise and have a resting heart rate of 60 or less. Mine is usually around 50. As a runner I get 3-5 hours of intense exercise weekly, so I only qualified for the standard setting. I took of my shoes and stepped onto the scale.

I am 6’1″ and weighed 176.2 at the time. This gave me a BMI of 23.2. The Tanita gave me these additional details:

  • Fat % 14.3%
  • Fat Mass 25.2lbs
  • Fat Free Mass 151lbs
  • Total body Water 110.6lbs

My desirable ranges are: Fat% 11-22% and Fat Mass 18.6 – 42.6lbs.

My results and analysis

While the accuracy of the Tanita system may be debatable, the system is FDA approved.

The measurement showed my fat % (14.3%) and pounds (25.2lbs) were on the low end of the desirable range. As a runner I was happy to see I that my hard work was paying off.

My fat-free mass is 151lbs, which means it would be very difficult, and probably unhealthy, for me to get near 160lbs. I would need to get my body fat down to the 5% range.

Over the summer when I was in marathon training mode I hit 165 on the bathroom scale a few times. I rarely hit 170 all summer and into the fall. Only around the holidays did I get over 170.

I know that my bathroom scale is not as accurate as a doctor’s office scale or the scale built into the Tanita. My weight is probably 2-5lbs more than what my home scale shows. With this assumption, I probably did get into the 11-12% body fat range over the summer. I’m probably in the 12-13% range now.


Using a single data point is not a valid method of determining anything. I think that access to one of these scales over time could be interesting and useful to me. A basic Tanita scale starts at $89.99 and range up to $632.99. I paid $24.99 for my current scale and my weight changes slightly depending how I arrange my feet on the scale. Maybe this year I’ll upgrade to one of these more accurate scales.

Tanita, BMI,

As a runner I tend to keep an eye on my weight. It would be nice to know how much of my weight is fat and how much is muscle added through marathon training.


Have you ever had a DEXA or Hydrostatic measurement?

Have you ever used a Tanita system?

Would you pay over $100 for a scale?

Is your weight at the doctor’s office significantly higher than your weight on your bathroom scale?

Disclaimer – I did not receive compensation from Tanita or the physical therapy office that performed my analysis.

Run well my Friends,


© 2014 Andrew Nagelin

New Year’s Resolutions

What are you doing today?

Here we are about a week away from the New Year. Often, resolutions are made on these evenings with a beverage in hand, a smile on the lips and not a care in our minds. It is a celebration after all, and all are in high spirits on such a momentous evening as New Year’s Eve.

It is the night we leave behind our troubles and worries from the previous year, and look forward with hope, ambition and desire towards the fresh New Year before us. It is not just the beverage that makes us a little whimsical and unrealistic. It is the moment; this brief period of time, the stillness of the air, the moment between breaths, when we feel all those things we were not able to accomplish or achieve previously, can be accomplished and achieved in the New Year. Hope springs anew on the crisp winter eve. Resolutions are made.

We have all been there, we have all done that. But who has the t-shirt that says “I gave up on my big plans and dreams before the break of dawn, January 1st of every year of my life?” Studies say that by the end of January a third have given up on their resolutions, and by July over half have given up. I’m shocked that the numbers who keep their resolutions are this high. Seeing the crowd in the gym drop off near the end of January makes me think a lot more than half of people give up way before July.

Today is your day

Don’t wait until you’ve had a few cocktails and your belly is full of rich food on New Years Eve to decide it is time to change your life. Grab a slip of paper from your desk and jot down two or three things you would like to change or do more of or less of.

I know it’s tempting to write down really big things that you want to do. Resolution time is the time to be ambitious and go big, right? But let’s look at this another way; rather than having an overly ambitious goal, how about having a more moderate goal, one that you can have a reasonable expectation of achieving.

Why set a course for failure when you are planning what to do. That’s the same thing as planning to fail. You can choose an achievable goal that has meaning in your life. You do not need to impress anyone else with some lofty goal that you have no hope of accomplishing.

This is for you. This is your day. Do it today. Write down your goals now.

Studies have shown that specific goals are more likely to be achieved. A specific goal would be something like, “I want to lose 5lbs by the end of February and 10lbs by December 1st 2013.” Just saying that you want to lose weight is not specific enough.

Modest goals that are achievable are more likely to be achieved. If you want to start running this year, setting your sights on a 5K is more realistic than going for a marathon. If you want to lose weight this year, you are more likely to lose 5lbs than 50lbs over the course of the year.

It’s not that you should not be ambitious, but sticking with a 5K training plan is better than quitting a marathon training plan. Losing 5lbs and then building on that success to lose another 5lbs is better than setting a goal of 50lbs and then quitting because you only lost 5lbs in two months.

Now What?

Setting achievable goals and then establishing new habits to attain these goals is your path to long-term success. Getting into a jogging or running routine that you can maintain for life is a worthy goal, as is learning how to deal with your cravings or changing your eating habits.

Now that you have specific and achievable goals it is time to think about how you are going to accomplish your goals. I won’t list all of the web sites where you can find help quitting smoking or losing weight or finding ways to gain control of your anger or fear. Google can help you find those.

I want you to write down one or two things that you can do to help you accomplish your goals. They do not need to be dramatic and grand. Small steps taken consistently will get you to where you want to go. You have your destination set, now plan how you are going to get there.

Changing Your Diet

Making small changes that you can live with are best. If your goal is to lose weight then the best way to start is with a food journal. All that you need to do is take a small note-book and stick it in your pocket. Write down everything that you eat for a week and then look at it. There will probably be some obvious problem areas that you can work on and achieve your weight loss goals. Do you drink a lot of soda or go out for lunch every day? Do you use cream in your coffee every day, several times a day?

You may find that by changing just one or two of your eating habits that you can lose 5lbs in a year. If you maintain the new eating habit you will probably keep the weight off and may continue to lose.

I know 5lbs in a year doesn’t sound like much. But how much did you lose last year? How much did you gain last year? If you can take control of your diet this year through small changes you can stop and even reverse the annual weight gain most of us experience.

Here is a good web site to find the calories in the foods that you eat. caloriecount.about.com. If you scroll down on the home page you will find their listing to look up calories. It may surprise you how many calories are in some foods you eat and how making one or two small changes in your diet could add up to real and sustainable weight loss. This is not about crash or fad diets. It’s about making small changes that you can live with and that will add up to better health over time. They also list activities that you can use to burn additional calories.

Here is another good web site that I found recently. caloriesperhour.com. They have the same philosophy as I do, as stated on their “Tutorial” page:

Our concept of a “diet” is a change in lifestyle: Learning to eat well and exercise in a healthy way that you can enjoy for the rest of your life. The concept is not unique. It is one you will likely hear about from a health professional. Our purpose is not to help you with your next diet, but to help you put an end to the dieting cycle. Temporary weight loss is of little benefit.

Their tutorial has a lot of good information and is an easy read. They have a lot of good tools and information on the site, and I think you will find it very interesting.

Both of these web sites have ads, are looking to sell books and have premium services. But I think they have fewer ads than sites like coolrunning.com. Caloriesperhour.com is now part of livestring.com. I’m not sure how you feel about Lance Armstrong, but livestrong.com has a lot of great information and tools for you also.

Increasing Physical Activity

Increasing your physical activity in the New Year is a great way to lose weight and/or increase your fitness. If you burn a few more calories through increased activities and reduce your caloric intake you can accelerate your weight loss, but in a healthy and sustainable way.

Both of the web sites I mentioned have good information on burning additional calories. You do not need to start training for a triathlon. It can be as simple as walking the dog or you can find a “Couch to 5K” program at coolrunning.com, active.com and other web sites.

You will be pleased to note that caloriecount.about.com tells you how many calories you can burn through sexual activity. There is truly something for everyone when it comes to increasing physical activity and caloriecount has a fairly extensive listing for you.

New Years Resolutions

I know that not all New Year’s resolutions are about getting healthy or losing weight. But this blog is about running and providing advice to people who want to start running. My passion is running and staying healthy. If you are reading my blog and have gotten this far, then you must have a passion for health and exercise as well.

I hope you will take a few minutes to write down your health and fitness goals for 2013. Then, I hope you will visit some web sites or read some books to see how you can make big changes in your life with small changes in your diet and activities.

Live well my friends


© anagelin