Hand-to-Foot Body Fat Scales: Are They Worth Their Weight? (Product Review)
As you probably already know, there are no perfect methods to measuring how much body fat you have. As already revealed in many other articles and discussions, the trend of change over time is far more important than pin-point accuracy. As such, no matter what device you use to measure body fat, as long as you are monitoring your change in body composition over time, then you'll pretty well know if you're making the right kind of progress or not.
Notwithstanding, it doesn't hurt to use the most accurate method available to us, if for no other reason than to simply feel a little more confident in our numbers. So, when a new device comes on the market that promises better accuracy, it's bound to get some attention.
How Traditional Body Fat Scales Work
Traditional body fat scales (the foot-to-foot kind) run a tiny, harmless electric current up one leg and down the other, in order to ascertain how much your body resists the flow of electricity. (This is called "bioelectric impedance".) Depending on how well your body conducts electricity indicates how much of your body is composed of water, and how much is not. Since muscle is made up mostly of water, it allows the scale to have some idea of how much muscle you have, and by difference, how much of your body is likely to be composed of fat.
The only real problem with using foot-to-foot is that you're only sampling the lower half of your body, and if you're particularly "top heavy", it may not give you as accurate a view of your body composition as you might like. So it makes sense that manufacturers of these scales would want to use more of your body in order to improve the accuracy of the test results. And so they have...
Hand-to-Foot Body Fat Scales
One such device, the hand-to-foot body fat scales offered by Omron, promises better accuracy by sampling a larger part of your body. This is done by running the electrical signal between the hands and feet, right through the mid-section of the body. With such a larger area of the body being used in the analysis, one might expect the accuracy to be greatly improved.
Again, there are no perfect methods of measuring body fat, so I didn't expect perfection… but I must confess I had very high hopes for this technology. Unfortunately, after measuring for many months with this scale in tandem with a traditional foot-to-foot body fat scale, on myself and two other family members, I found that measurements were far more chaotic and random in appearance than the traditional body fat scale. The traditional body fat scale showed more consistency week to week, while the numbers from the Omron hand-to-foot scale (the HBF-510W in this case) jumped up and down somewhat erratically.
It's interesting to note that the readings given by both scales correlated better for the ladies of the house than for me. I can't be certain why that is, but the consistency of the results between the two scales definitely seems to be different between the two sexes. That said, as you can see from the graph, the hand-to-foot Omron scale still gave fairly chaotic results for the women -- just closer in range.
Measuring your body composition is important, and again, it's the trend over time that is most important, so using these hand-to-foot scales are far better than just trusting in your scale weight alone -- but if your body fat measurements are chaotic, it can be a bit misleading… if not scary… especially if you're just starting out on your fat loss journey. As such, between the chaotic readings and the heftier price tag, I can't really recommend using these devices in lieu of other body fat scales or calipers.
It's Not All Bad
Accuracy issues aside, I should also note that it is actually kind of fun to use these hand-to-foot scales. Having a more complicated setup (you must hold your hands and arms a certain way) and watching it go feels just a little bit George Jetson, and for us gadget geeks out there, that's just good plain fun.
The Bottom Line
These scales are definitely better than not measuring body composition at all, but in comparing one body composition test to another, I don't believe they hold their weight.
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About The Author - Robb Ryniak
I starting my fat loss journey in 2008, more or less, but only cared enough to take it seriously since May 2009. As of summer 2008, I was 410 lbs, and God only knows what my body fat percentage was, but I'm estimating over 60%. At the time, quite honestly, I just didn't care enough about myself to do something about it. Having made a friend that reminded me of myself when I was younger, I became oddly compelled to restore myself to the much leaner version I had been as a kid. It was like something in me just woke up and said "Enough of this! I want to be myself again!"
After a year and a half on my own with good results, my fat loss started to slow: I was approaching my first plataeu. I began searching for a better nutrition plan, and that's when I found Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle by Tom Venuto... and subsequently, the Inner Circle. I adjusted my strategy as I learned, and continued on to have lost a grand total of 241 lbs. As of April 15, 2011, I am on my first building cycle (which has been fun) and am now weighing in at 188 lbs with an estimated body fat percentage of 10.1% by way of both Accumeasure & Jackson-Pollock 7 site test.
One of the best parts of my transformation is how it has impacted my family. The entire family is on now board with a healthy lifestyle, which is something I am beyond happy about. Since joining the Inner Circle, I have discovered a genuine passion for bodybuilding, and also found that I now truly prefer to eat in this much healthier way. I am also continually learning, and have also made some good friends here on the Inner Circle; and I am grateful for the support, knowledge, and kindness of its leadership and members alike.
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