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TANITA BODY FAT MONITOR
Let's face it, stepping on the scales isn't much fun. They don't tell you a whole lot, but that number on the scales can make or break your mood for the day. Well, that's how it works for me.
If they tell me I weigh more than they should, I protest it's down to water retention, or maybe I've developed more muscles. It's all down to guesswork. What I really needed was more information on my body composition. I wanted all the nitty gritty details that were contributing to my ever changing weight dilemmas.
After reading an advert for body fat monitors one day, I decided that this was the sort of information I was after. So, after undertaking a bit of research, I bought the Tanita BC-532. Tanita is a well known brand name for weighing scales, plus the price wasn't too horrendous at around £70 at Argos. However, Argos don't appear to be selling this particular model any longer but they can still be found at Amazon.
Who Can Use It
The Tanita BC-532 is suitable for adults and children from the age of 7, although children can only use the weight and body fat percentage functions.
How They Work
You enter your personal details including age, height and sex. It then stores these into one of the 4 profiles which you recall each time you get on the scales.
Next, you stand on the footpads of the scales in your bare feet and a small, harmless electrical current passes through your body. The current passes quickly through fluids, muscle and bone mass but slower through fat. The monitor measures the amount of resistance it meets from body fat to calculate your body composition.
There are a couple of handy manuals detailing how each calculation is worked out along with charts and figures to measure or compare your readings.
You then step off the scales and press through the different buttons on the front of the scale to retrieve all your readings. I often make note of them all and put them into a spreadsheet, just to compare my results with previous weeks.
What I liked about this model is the range of features it provides.
Body fat percentage:
I was particularly interested in finding this out as I'd never had my actual body fat measured. The monitor measures the percentage of body fat you have as a proportion of your body weight. It then checks it against its internal Healthy Body Fat Range chart and informs you, (not out loud) of where you fall in the Body Fat Range for your age and gender.
Total water percentage:
This measurement tells you how much fluid is in your body, expressed as a percentage of your total weight.
Visceral fat level:
I had no idea what this was, but it's actually very important. This is the amount of fat that surrounds your vital organs in the abdominal area, ie the fat surrounding the heart muscle. Large deposits of this fat can lead to heart disease and is an indicator of type 2 diabetes. It can't be seen and even slim people can have high levels of visceral fat.
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR):
This is useful if you want to know how many calories you need to maintain your weight, or for working out how much to cut down to lose some. Your BMR is the minimum number of calories your body needs in order to function, ie when resting or sleeping.
I find this very useful for calculating how many calories I need during a day. All I have to do is estimate how many calories I burn off with exercising and add that on to my BMR score. Voila, that's how many calories I can eat to maintain my weight. OK, I'm a bit obsessive and I don't do this every time, honest.
This tells you whether or not you need to improve your metabolic rate. If your BMR Age is higher than your current age, then you need to do some work to lower your score.
This calculates the weight of muscle in your body, something a regular scale cannot do. This feature is really useful if you're trying to lose weight and following a fitness regime. Often dieters can become frustrated at not losing weight, but in effect, they are building muscle mass, which is denser than fat and hence weighs more.
The booklet includes a chart that explains what sort of physique you have based on your result. I found this to be very accurate.
This indicates the amount of bone in your body and is something I was particularly interested in, since osteoporosis runs in the family.
This reading doesn't provide information on the hardness or strength of your bones, rather, the value is an estimate based on the fat-free tissue in your body.
General Usage Information:
It's best to weigh yourself at the same time of day or after doing the same amount of exercise, every time you hop on these scales. This is because measurements can vary quite a bit depending upon what you've been doing. For instance, if you've just been exercising, your readings could be quite different than if you've just woken up in the morning, due to hydration levels.
I've tested this out a few times myself. For instance, I've weighed myself just after getting up in the morning and noted down all the measurements. Then I've gone out and about, usually rushing around grocery shopping or riding my bike, then returned and stepped back on the scales to see where the differences are.
Mostly, the only changes I've found are the weight - it drops about 0.2kg. The muscle mass reading can change by small amounts but the biggest changes is always the body fat %. This always drops by up to 3% after exercise. That's why you should always compare your readings after you've been doing similar levels of activity.
It takes 4 AA sized batteries. I've had the same batteries in for well over a year and they're still going strong. I haven't had any problems with the functioning of the scales.
You can choose to weigh yourself in kilos or pound and stones.
It's made from glass with metallic footpads for you to stand on. It is quite heavy to pick up and I'm always scared of dropping it as I pack it away in between uses (otherwise I'd be jumping on it all the time).
Of course not everyone is interested in all the information it provides but I found it to be a great way to obtain some sort of idea as to what's going on inside my body. It's also a useful tool for measuring progress over time, particularly when used in conjunction with a personal exercise program. They're also helpful for keeping a watch on your family's weight and fat levels.
An advantage of buying your own is that you can measure yourself in the privacy of your own home.
Also reviewed on Ciao
Home Diagnostics / InnerScan Body Composition Monitor