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BODY COMPOSITION

A. BODY MASS INDEX

The human body is composed of a variety of tissues. The lean tissue of the body includes tissues, such as muscle, bone, and organs. These kinds of tissues are considered to be "alive," or metabolically active. The fat tissue (adipose) of the body is not active. It is divided into three categories: essential fat, storage fat, and non-essential fat. Non-essential fat is considered a hindrance to health and serves no real purpose. This type of fat should be kept to a minimum.

Body weight does not measure the percentages of lean tissue and fat tissue. Stepping on a scale is simply a method of measuring total body weight. Scales cannot indicate the difference between over-weight and over-fat. In order to measure the different body tissues, a body composition analysis must be performed. Many methods are available: One simple way is to check your body mass index. To do this, go to the following site:

http://healthlink.mcw.edu/article/923520512.html

B. BODY WEIGHT

Body fat is not a fact of heredity. Heredity might determine where you tend to store excess fat, but body fat is usually caused by lifestyle. During the teen years, the number of fat cells becomes constant. The only change in these cells is the size of a cell. The more fat stored in the cell, the larger the cell becomes in size.

One of the rewards of aerobic exercise is the development of more fat burning enzymes. Conditioned tissues burn more fat, not just during exercise, but all the time. This helps to reduce the amount of non-essential fat. In a combination of the right amount of daily calories for a healthy weight, cardiovascular exercise, and strength training to tone muscle mass, the body can eventually arrive at the optimum health.

C. THE FEMALE ATHLETE TRIAD

The female athlete triad consists of three conditions: eating disorders, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis. Most women and adolescent girls have a concern about appearance and weight. In some cases, exercise and diet become an excessive preoccupation in body shape and weight. The consequences of this obsession can result in irreversible bone loss, eating disorders related to starvation, decreased levels of estrogen, and even death.

Female athletes are candidates for this disorder because of the myth that low body fat will increase performance. Sports such as competitive running, gymnastics, diving, and figure skating often are catalysts for eating disorders. Parents, coaches, and physicians should be aware of the symptoms: fatigue, anemia, depression, cold intolerance, and eroded tooth enamel. These symptoms combined with unusual behaviors (eating alone, trips to the bathroom during or after meals, and the use of laxatives) are red flags to the possibility of the female athlete triad. Although the triad is associated with female athletes, it is becoming more common for men to have eating disorders, especially anorexia.

D. BODY FAT MONITOR

A Body fat monitor is a combination of a digital bathroom scale and bioelectrical impedance analysis. Upon stepping on the scale, a digital weight and body fat percent appear in the scale's window. People interested in keeping track of the impact of their diet and exercise on their body weight and body fat find this device very helpful. The body fat monitor passes a low frequency electrical signal through the body. Since electrical current does not flow through fat as easily as it does through other body tissues, the electrical resistance caused by the body fat can be used to measure the percentage of body fat. Caution: the body fat monitor is not safe for people with pacemakers or any implanted medical device. The monitor costs about $100.00.


Women in Motion -February 2007