Focus on body fat for a healthier you


When setting your fitness goals, it can be tempting to focus on the scale. Although dropping pounds is often a good step toward feeling and looking better, maintaining a healthy ratio of body fat is best for your overall health.

Here’s what you can do to ensure your body fat is in a healthy range:

Step 1: Understand the basics

Body composition measures the ratio of fat to muscle, bone, and water in your body. Body mass index (BMI) measures body composition using height and weight. Unhealthy body composition and high BMI can increase your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.

Step 2: Know your numbers

To determine your BMI:

  • Multiply your weight in pounds by 703
  • Divide by your height in inches
  • Divide again by your height in inches

Or, check out the already completed height/weight chart from the American Heart Association to determine your BMI risk level.

For most people, a healthy BMI value is between 18.5 and 24.9.

Step 3: Separate fact from fiction

If you’ve got a problem area, you can target fat loss in that part of your body with well-placed workouts, right? Unfortunately, a Women’s Health expert says you can’t “spot reduce,” or target loss of fat from specific places. For example, doing 100 crunches a day might strengthen your abs, but won’t necessarily whittle your waistline.

Instead, Yale Scientific suggests fat loss is best achieved with the basic principle of calories burned versus calories consumed. So if you want to lose the love handles, an efficient calorie-burning cardio activity like running will likely give you better results than daily ab exercises.

Step 4: Choose a fitness program that will burn calories (and fat)

Cardio training: Regular aerobic exercise burns calories and benefits your cardiovascular systems, too. Mix up your routine with moderate aerobic activities like brisk walking and swimming, and more vigorous aerobic activities like running.

Interval training: This kind of program alternates between brief periods of high- and low-intensity exercise. Give interval training a try with a sample interval workout from the Y.

Weight training: A strength program will help you build muscle mass, which helps you burn more calories—even when you’re at rest, says WebMD. Larger muscles burn more calories, so try weight workouts that use your upper legs, abdomen, chest, and back.

Step 5: Don’t forget about good nutrition

Aside from watching your fat intake, some foods might also help you to shed fat more efficiently. Check out the top 10 foods from the Huffington Post Canada.