Five Easy ways to Prevent Windburn

What is Windburn?

Windburn is dry, chapped skin caused by prolonged exposure to cold, dry air.

Windburn is caused by your body’s response to cold, dry air. Wind accelerates this process by drawing heat and moisture from your skin.

Sunburn has similar symptoms but is caused by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light (UV) from the sun. It’s not unusual to get windburn and sunburn together.

Moisture evaporates from your skin through a process called Trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). Thisis part of the natural process your body uses to maintain your skin, the largest organ in the body.

When your skin is exposed to cold, dry air your body responds by dilating blood vessels near the surface of the skin. This increases blood flow to restore normal skin moisture and temperature levels.

Over prolonged periods of time and in harsher conditions, the rate of evaporation exceeds your body’s capacity to respond. When normal skin temperature and moisture levels cannot be maintained your skin becomes damaged and you get windburn.

In the short term, wind burn results in red, dry skin which may become chapped or crack. In the long term, repeated or extended exposure can cause permanent damage and pre-mature aging of your skin.

Sunburn is caused by exposure to the sun’s Ultra-Violet (UV) rays. Similar to windburn, UV rays also cause your skin to dry out from accelerated TEWL. More significant is the damage UV rays cause to the DNA in your skin cells. This accelerates the aging process and can also lead to cancer.

It’s not uncommon to simultaneously suffer sunburn and windburn. It’s not uncommon to experience dry, cold and sunny conditions together.

Five Ways to Prevent Windburn

preventing windburn, winter running

The best way to treat wind burn is to prevent it. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

For athletes this means training indoors when conditions are harsh or changing the time of day you exercise outside. This is just like avoiding the hottest, sunniest parts of the day during the summer months.

For most athletes, over exposure to the elements is common. We cannot control the environment and sometimes we are unprepared to deal with harsh conditions.

It’s not unusual for conditions to change during a run. If race day turns into a bad weather day, most of us still show up.

Since most of us still show up for races in harsh conditions and still train in less than ideal conditions, we need to take steps to protect ourselves.

Here are Five Ways to Prevent Windburn

1.) Use a skin cream that locks in moisture. Products that contain petroleum jelly, cocoa butter, jojoba oil, shea butter, lanolin or beeswax are good to use.

These ingredients are known as “Occlusives.” Occlusives form a thin non-permeable film on your skin which locks in your skin’s natural moisture and helps prevent TEWL. Check out these articles from Skin Therapy Newsletter and Botaneri for more information on occlusives and products to look for that contain occlusives.

Occlusives stay on the surface of your skin and are not moisturizers. They form a protective layer to lock in your skin’s natural moisture. Since occlusives cannot be absorbed, they can clog pores and cause acne.

A product containing occlusives will need to be washed off with soap and water.

Some dermatologists recommend using sun screen every day. When you know you will be exposed for long periods you should use a sunscreen containing an occlusive. The most common occlusive found in sun screen is zinc oxide.

This is the easiest tip to implement. Keep a tube of quality sun screen in your bag and in your car. Keep sunscreen out of the heat and check for experimentation dates.

2.) Don’t forget your lips. Our lips are exposed to sun every day and the bitter cold of winter does not help. Some chap stick and lip balm is made with bee’s wax and have a decent SPF. Beeswax is a natural occlusive that most people are not allergic to.

I often use chap stick when running. My lips always seem to dry out and it can drive me crazy. I don’t always use a product with an occlusive but I always look for the SPF on the package. Always read the label.

3.) Avoid exposure to extreme temperatures for prolonged periods of time. In the summer time you want to avoid outside activities when the UV Index is highest. In cold temperatures you want to avoid being outside for long periods of time in harsh conditions.

You may have to run at different times of the day or drive the kids to school. When the days are short and the nights are frigid, a treadmill may be your best friend.

If you do have to run in harsh conditions, cover as much skin as possible. Use a lotion with an occlusive on your nose and exposed portions of your face. When it’s below freezing I try to wear lotion even in the dark.

Kids should wear gloves and knit caps for the bus stop or walk home. A baseball hat doesn’t protect ears from frostbite or windburn and has virtually no insulation for your kid’s head.

4.) Break up your exposure time. Your body responds to the conditions and can protect you over the short run. But it needs time to recover from exposure. See the chart below for frost bite. Cut those times in half for windburn and plan accordingly.

Your body will heat up from running but exposed skin is still vulnerable to wind burn. Try breaking a long run into shorter runs and give your skin time to recover in sheltered warmth. Re-apply your skin cream.

You can also break up your outside chores by taking a break from snow shoveling to re-hydrate and help your skin recover.

Breaking up activities is probably the most difficult thing to do. It’s hard enough to get outside when it’s cold. Taking a break could cause you to not go back out.

If the conditions are really bad you may have to use the treadmill or risk cutting your run short. Sometimes a little in-doors cross training is the best bet!

5.) Check the weather forecast; know the wind chill. Quite often winter forecasts will include the wind chill factor. Knowing the conditions is key to protecting your skin.

Use this chart to estimate the wind chill in your area. Click on the chart to get a National Weather Service pdf down load.wind chill, winter running, windburnIt’s important to keep in mind that conditions constantly change. If the air temperature is 20° and you get into a 30mph wind, you have a 1°F wind chill.

Due to the variability of conditions it is best to be a little cautious. Wearing a quality sun screen all the time is a good idea. If conditions are marginal, you should be prepared to seek shelter and change your plans if conditions worsen.

How to treat Windburn

Windburned skin is damaged, sensitive skin. Moisturizing lotion and avoiding further exposure will help your skin recover. Avoid lotions with fragrances or harsh ingredients and look for lotions for “sensitive” skin.

Aloe Vera is a good choice, but consult with your physician or pharmacist for advice on the best treatment for you.

While a hot shower may feel great after coming in from the cold, hot water is not good for wind burn or sunburned skin. If you want a hot shower try to keep the hot water off of your damaged skin.

Hot water and soap break up and wash away the lipids on the surface of your skin. Lipids are the natural oils in your skin that hold in moisture and help keep your skin soft. Try to wash your damaged skin with warm water and then apply lotion.

Run well my friends,

Andy

Fitness Level Calculator

What is your fitness level?

Physical fitness is key to a long life and good health.

Many of us judge our fitness level by what we see in the mirror, how fast we can run or what we can do in the gym.

These are all good indicators of physical fitness, but there are other factors that we cannot see in the mirror or on the stop watch.

One of these factors is cardiovascular fitness.

Cardiovascular fitness is a key health factor and indicator of fitness.

Your body’s capacity to transport and use oxygen during exercise (VO2 Max) is the most precise measure of overall cardiovascular fitness.

There are two ways to measure your VO2 Max.

Based on extensive research, The K. G. Jebsen Center of Exercise in Medicine at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, developed a survey that you can take to easily estimate your fitness level (VO2 Max).

The survey takes about five minutes to complete and requires information most of us know about ourselves.

The survey is anonymous and free. The data you provide is added to their database for research purposes.

The results of my October 2014 worldfitnesslevel.org questionnaire are below. Click my 2014 results and go to the Worldfitnesslevel.org website to calculate your fitness level.

Vo2max, age, fitness level calculator

I knew I was in the best shape of my life in 2014, but these results were surprising.

The survey asks questions about your weight, height, exercise routine and your diet. They also ask for your resting heart rate.

That’s probably the most difficult question for most of us to answer.

In 2014, I used a resting heart rate of 50 in my calculations. At that time my resting rate was usually below 50.

The best way to find your resting heart rate is to check your pulse before you get out of bed in the morning. Count your pulse for 15 seconds and multiply by 4. At a doctor’s office it’s not unusual for your heart rate to be slightly elevated!

Either method is fine as you are getting an estimate and not a diagnosis from this survey.

I took the survey again in March of 2019. This time I estimated my resting heart rate to be 56. It may be lower than that, but I’m certainly not in the same shape I was in 2014.

I weigh a little more in 2019, but my exercise and diet are similar if not a bit better. A question that I do not recall seeing five years ago was “How many hours a day do I spend sitting?”

Between work, commuting and sitting around the house, I estimated 12 hours per day. It’s probably more than that!

VoMAX, fitness

I am now five years older and weigh about 5lbs more than I did in 2014.

My results show that I have the fitness level of a 34 year old. That’s not bad for a 55 year-old. But five years ago I was as fit as a 24 year-old.

I didn’t dig into how the calculations are made, but the details are on their web site.

I’m pretty sure my pulse, weight and sitting time were the biggest factors to my loosing 10 years of fitness over five years!

I have read that it is important to know your VO2 Max for training. I never knew how to make these calculations and my doctor would not do it or refer me to a specialist to get the calculations.

Having a calculator designed by scientists is a good way to get a good approximation of your VO2 Max and fitness level. These calculations may not be 100% accurate, but it’s a good place to start.

Age can be measured by more than years

An October, 2014 New York Times article by Gretchen Reynolds discusses the research study conducted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)that helped develop this calculator.The NTNU have conducted studies on fitness and how it relates to wellness for more than 30 years.

This study, begun in the 1980’s, collected data from 55,000 Norwegian adults. They used the data to calculate the subject’s VO2max and fitness age. The higher your VO2max in relation to others your age, the lower your fitness age. Then they checked the death records for the study participants and discovered a relationship between VO2max and mortality.

It turned out that people whose calculated VO2max was 15 percent or more below average for their age— meaning that their fitness age was significantly above their chronological years — had an 82 percent higher risk of dying prematurely than those whose fitness age was the same as or more youthful than their actual age. According to the study’s authors, the results suggest that fitness age may predict a person’s risk of early death better than some traditional risk factors like being overweight, having high cholesterol levels or blood pressure, and smoking.
Source: NY Times

The NTNU study collected data from Norwegians and the researchers understand that their results may not be accurate world wide. They plan to expand their study group and update the questionnaire to help make the calculator more accurate for people around the world.

Precisely Measuring Your Fitness Level

The most accurate way to measure your fitness level is a direct measurement using calibrated equipment.

In the Boston area Cenegenics Medical Institute in Boston and Outback PT in Somervilleoffer the VO2 Max test. The test is conducted on a treadmill or exercise bike while you wear a heart rate monitor and a mask. The mask collects all exhaled breath in order to make the VO2 Max calculations.

For a VO2 Max test at Outback PT the cost is $199. At Cenegenics the VO2 Max test will run you $150.00, or combine it with a DEXA Body Composition Scan for $300.

Check out this video from Outback PT to see how the VO2 Max test is conducted at their office.

While nothing can replace a direct measurement of your fitness level, the on-line questionnaire is an affordable place to start.

Have you checked your fitness level?

Run well my friends,

Andy

Tick Season is here

New England Tick Season is here

Tick season is during the warmer months of the year, April through September. We had a cold and snowy winter here in New England and some parts of northern New England still have snow on the ground.

Ticks are able to winter over in leaf litter on the forest floor, or your back yard. They are hearty little buggers. So even though you still have the furnace on, ticks are emerging from their winter rest.

Ticks transmit numerous diseases, here in New England the primary concern is Deer Ticks and Lyme Disease. The black-legged, or deer tick, is the primary vector for Lyme Disease. The Massachusetts Town of Dover, Board of Health’s Lyme Disease Committee issued a tick warning on April 13th. The CDC reports that in 2012, 95% of Lyme disease cases were reported from 13 states, including 5 of the 6 New England states.

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

While common in only 13 states, Lyme was the 7th most reported disease in the entire country. The Minnesota Department of Public Health provides the following on the black-legged, or Deer Tick:

Where do we find black-legged ticks?

  • black-legged ticks live in wooded, brushy areas that provide food and cover for white-footed mice, deer and other mammals.
    • This habitat also provides the humidity ticks need to survive.
  • Exposure to ticks may be greatest in the woods (especially along trails) and the fringe area between the woods and border.
  • black-legged ticks search for a host from the tips of low-lying vegetation and shrubs, not from trees.
    • Generally, ticks attach to a person or animal near ground level.
  • black-legged ticks crawl; they do not jump or fly. They grab onto people or animals that brush against vegetation, and then they crawl upwards to find a place to bite.
  • White-tailed deer live throughout Minnesota, but black-legged ticks are not found everywhere that deer live.

What can be done to control tick populations?

There are measures you can take to reduce the number of ticks around your home. In general, drier conditions mean fewer black-legged ticks:

  • Keep lawns mowed, brush trimmed, and leaf litter away from the home.
  • Keep trails or paths in wooded areas on your property clear of vegetation

Continue reading “Tick Season is here”

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

Andy

© anagelin

Whats your number?

We are constantly hearing about the obesity epidemic in the United States. For a variety of reasons, including genetics and lifestyle, we as a country are getting heavier and less healthy.

From a National perspective the results of this trend are frightening. From a personal perspective they can be tragic.

What is obesity, how do you know if you are obese, and, why worry about it?

What is Obesity?

Obese is a funny sounding word with serious consequences. I think most of us know what obesity looks like, but what is the difference between being overweight and being obese.

Overweight is defined as a body weight that exceeds an average or that exceeds what is generally considered healthy.

Obesity is a complex disorder involving an excessive amount of body fat.

While many of us can subjectively define “overweight” or “obese”, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) uses the body Mass Index, or BMI, to define overweight and obesity ranges.

The definitions for adults are:

  • An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.
  • An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.

The following table provides an example.

HeightWeight RangeBMIConsidered
5′ 9″124 lbs or lessBelow 18.5Underweight
125 lbs to 168 lbs18.5 to 24.9Healthy weight
169 lbs to 202 lbs25.0 to 29.9Overweight
203 lbs or more30 or higherObese

The CDC link above will give you for more information on BMI and weight trends in the United States.

Whats your number?

The CDC provides a BMI calculator for adults and one for children and teens at their website. You can use these links to calculate your own BMI.

BMI does not directly measure the amount of fat that your body has. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated using a person’s weight and height. No other factors are taken into account.

While the BMI is quick and easy to calculate, there are more accurate methods to measure body fat.

The BMI calculation is a good place for you to start, even though it does not take into account your gender, ethnicity, frame size or muscular development. For most of us it is a reasonably accurate measure to start with and can be done at home.

If your BMI calculation shows that you are overweight or obese, speak with your doctor. She may perform other procedures or refer you to a specialist who can perform more precise measurements of your body fat composition.

Methods to determine body fat percentage

Calipers (Anthropometry, or Skin fold Measurements)

Using a caliper, skins folds are measured in 3-7 locations on the body. Sometimes the measurements are taken several times and averaged to get a more accurate number. These numbers are then put into an equation to determine your body fat percentage. Over 3500 equations have been validated for different body types, age, gender, ethnicity etc.

Like the BMI, skin fold measurements are inexpensive to perform. However, their accuracy depends greatly on the skill of the person doing them and the quality and accuracy of the calipers being used.

The Dunk Tank (Hydrodensitometry, or Underwater Weighing)

In this method a person is weighed outside of the tank and then submerged into a tank of water. They are weighed again in the water and their body density is calculated. This process involves total submersion in the water and exhaling to empty the lungs as completely as possible. This is not a comfortable experience for some people. Using standard equations body fat percentage is calculated from these measurements.

Hydrodensitometry is considered one of the “Gold Standards” of body composition hydrodensitometrymeasurement. Done correctly, this method has been shown to be very accurate.

In clinical studies subjects often need to be measured several times and then the results are averaged. There is also the problem of getting all or nearly all air out of the lungs while submerged and keeping the water as still as possible.

 

The Bod Pod

Bod PodThis is a method that uses air displacement instead of water to measure body composition. You sit inside of the “Bod Pod” for 8-12 minutes and get a variety of measurements. They claim this method is more accurate than the water displacement method.

Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA)

In this measurement technique a 50kHz current is applied through electrodes attached to the hands and bare feet. Impedance is the measure of the opposition to the passage of a current when a voltage is applied.

Water is a good conductor of current so it has low impedance. Fat tissue contains 10-20% water so it has greater impedance than fat-free mass in the body which can be 70-75% water.

The results of these tests are then put into equations to figure body mass. When combined with height and weight measurements and body type it is possible to calculate the percentage of body fat, fat-free mass, hydration level and other composition values.

Since the volume of water in the body is being measured, dehydration can affect the results. In preparation for the test care must be taken to maintain similar levels of hydration over a series of tests. Higher accuracy is achieved if the test is performed several times. Some clinicians use this test to measure the level of hydration in athletes or the chronically ill.

This is a painless, simple test, that is inexpensive to perform and under controlled conditions it can be quite accurate. When it was originally available commercially in the 80’s this method was considered un-reliable. Over the years, equipment developed for the clinical and medical practices have become highly accurate.

In 1992, Tanita, introduced a scale that not only measures your weight but also has BIA technology built in. This scale will automatically measure your weight and impedance and calculate your body fat percentage. Today they have a variety of models that range from home to professional use and can get quite sophisticated.

Tanita has some useful charts on body fat, BMI and the health risks of excess fat on their website. This link will download the pdf file for you.

Sometimes you can find these machines at health clubs or physical therapy offices. The accuracy of this measurement method and device have been questioned.

Near-Infrared Interactance (NIR)

This test uses a fiber optic probe pressed up against the skin. Various sites on the body can be used but typically the bicep is used. Infrared light from the optic probe penetrates the tissues and bounces back off of the bone.

Studies have shown that optical densities are linearly related to subcutaneous and total body fat. The NIR data is entered into an equation with the person’s height, weight, frame size and level of activity, to estimate the body fat percentage.

As with all tests there are variables that can affect the test such as skin color and hydration levels. The amount of pressure from the probe against the skin can also affect results. This is another simple, fast and inexpensive test but more research may be needed.

Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA)

This is a relatively new technology which can measure total body mineral, fat-free mass and fat tissue mass. DXA is based on research that shows bone mineral content is directly proportional to the amount of photon energy absorbed by the bone being studied. DXA is most widely used to diagnose and monitor osteoporosis.

DEXA,dual x-ray This technique has the subject lay still on a table for 10 to 20 minutes. The scan uses two low-dose x-ray beams of different energy levels to measure the entire body in 0.5 cm intervals. This test method has been used and studied extensively and has the ability to show exactly where fat is distributed on the body. Because of this method’s precision with only one measurement, it is becoming the new “gold standard”.

I had a DXA or DEXA scan performed at the Cenegenics Medical Institute in Boston. To learn more about the scan and my experience, check out this post.

Converting BMI to body fat percentage

These other techniques do measure body fat, but they need to be done by a trained professional, may be expensive and can be hard to find. If you have done one of these other methods then you know how many of your total pounds are fat, you know your number.

If you are like me and have only done a BMI calculation there is one more step that you need to take to determine your body fat percentage and how many pounds of fat you are carrying around. At livestrong.com I found a formula to convert BMI to percentage of fat.

FEMALES

1

Multiply BMI by 1.2

2

Multiply your age by 0.23

3

Add results of steps 1 & 2

4

Subtract 5.4 from this total

5

This is your body fat percentage
MALES

1

Multiply BMI by 1.2

2

Multiply your age by 0.23

3

Add results of steps 1 & 2

4

Subtract 16.2 from this total

5

This is your body fat percentage

As an example I will use my numbers.

I am 6’ 1” and as of this morning I weigh about 173lbs and I am 48 years old. According to the BMI calculators on the CDC’s web site my BMI is 22.8

Step 1 22.8 x 1.2 = 27.36

Step 2 48 x .23 = 11.04

Step 3 27.36 + 11.04 = 38.40

Step 4 38.40 – 16.2 = 22.2%

According to these calculations my body is 22.2% fat and I am carrying 38.406 pounds of fat around with me. That seems like a lot of fat, but my BMI is well within the normal range of 18.5 to 24.9, which is based on population averages

No one is claiming that the BMI is the most accurate method to measure body composition. It also stands to reason that the indexes will shift higher over time as the trend of society to grow heavier continues. But it is free and can be done at home with reasonable accuracy.

The scales that we use to weigh ourselves are the most significant variable. The scale in my bathroom is different from the scale at my gym and different from the scale at my doctor’s office. My doctor’s office scale usually has me 10lbs heavier than my bathroom scale. If I use my doctor’s data I am 183lbs and my BMI becomes 24.1. Using the same calculations from livestrong.com, my body fat percentage goes to 23.76. This is still within the normal range.

I use my bathroom scale as the constant. Whatever it’s inaccuracies; they are the same every day. My doctor uses a clinical tool in his office. You are all familiar with the black and chrome weight and height scale in just about every doctor’s office in America. I have to assume that his equipment is more accurate than mine. To monitor your weight it is a good practice to use the same scale each time.

Looking at my numbers, the BMI seems to correlate fairly accurately to my body fat percentage. Using my bathroom scale, my BMI is 22.8 and my body fat percentage is 22.2%, so the correlation is .97. Using my doctor’s scale my BMI is 24.1 and my body fat percentage is 23.76, or a .98 correlation. This may not be accurate enough for science and engineering, but we’re not trying to land on the Moon. We just need a fairly accurate measure of our body fat. Using the other techniques we can gain greater precision.

Why should you care about your number?

Now that you know the different ways to determine your body fat percentage, now what?

Why should you care and is it really that important?

A 2012 report by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics showed that in 2009-2010, 35.7% of all adults 20 years and older were obese. For women 60 years and older the percentage rises to 42.3%. Here is the link to the pdf of the full report.

Obese means a BMI of 30 or higher. If my BMI were 30 my body fat percentage would be 30.84% and I would be carrying around over 56lbs of body fat! That is 13lbs more than my doctor’s scale shows I am currently carrying.

But what does this mean to you? What would a BMI of 30 mean to you? According to the CDC: Research has shown that as weight increases to reach the levels referred to as “overweight” and “obesity,” the risks for the following conditions also increases:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
  • Stroke
  • Liver and Gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint)
  • Gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility)
  • · In 2008, medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

According to the American Diabetes Association medical costs for a diabetic are 2.3 times the cost of a person without diabetes. Diabetes causes many chronic diseases that are expensive to treat such as: Heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, nervous system damage and amputations. In 2007 the total cost for diagnosed diabetes was $174 billion.

80% of people with Type II diabetes are overweight or obese. A CDC study showed that people with a BMI of 40 or higher are 7.37 times more likely to be diagnosed with Type II diabetes than those with a normal range BMI. As your BMI increases beyond the normal range your risks for diabetes also increases.

A major factor in getting Type II diabetes is your weight. Type II diabetes increases your risk of the diseases listed above. Your weight and fitness level are within your control for the most part. By increasing your activity level and making moderate dietary changes you may be able to avoid Type II diabetes and the cascade of diseases that result from this condition.

This is why you should be concerned about obesity and your own levels of fitness and body fat. Genetics does play a role in obesity but for most of us it does not condemn us to a lifetime of obesity and illness. Discovering your BMI or body fat percentage is the first step in taking control of your health and your future.

So, whats your number?

Andy