What Is A Healthy Body Fat Percentage?

October 09, 2023

What Is A Healthy Body Fat Percentage?

Body fat percentage (BFP) is a metric used to assess an individual's fitness level and overall health. However, a healthy body fat percentage can vary based on several factors including age, sex, and individual health circumstances.

Here's a breakdown of what is generally considered a healthy body fat percentage:

Age and Sex Specific Ranges:

According to various sources, the healthy body fat percentage ranges for different age groups are as follows:

  • Ages 20 to 39:

    • Men: 8% to 19%
    • Women: 21% to 32%​1​.
  • Ages 40 to 59:

    • Men: 11% to 21%
    • Women: 23% to 27%​2​​1​.
  • Ages 60 and above:

    • Men: 13% to 24%
    • Women: 24% to 30%​3​.

General Ranges:

The American Council on Exercise provides a general categorization of body fat percentages for both men and women:

  • Men:

    • Average: 18% to 24%
    • Fitness: 15% to 17%
    • Athletes: 6% to 13%
  • Women (no specific ranges provided for the same categories as men, but based on the age-specific ranges above, we can infer):

    • Average: Around 21% to 32% (for ages 20 to 39)
    • Fitness: Likely a bit lower than the average range
    • Athletes: Significantly lower, exact range may vary

These ranges are indicative and can vary based on individual health circumstances. It's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate body fat percentage for your unique health circumstances.

These ranges provide a general guideline, but it's crucial to remember that the "right" or healthy body fat percentage can vary from individual to individual. Factors such as muscle mass, bone density, and overall health can influence what is considered a healthy body fat percentage for each person. It's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate body fat percentage for your unique health circumstances.

Average Body Fat Percentage of Americans:

  1. Prevalence of Obesity:

    • About one out of every three adults in the US is obese, which translates to about 36% of the population​1​.
    • As of 2017-2018, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that 42.4% of US adults were obese, with a slightly higher prevalence in men (43%) compared to women (41.9%)​2​.
  2. Body Fat Percentage Statistics:

    • In a study carried out between 2015 and 2016, it was found that the average body fat percentage for men in the United States was 28.7%, as measured by DXA (Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry). The median body fat percentage for men was reported as 28.2% during the same period​3​.

Risks Associated with High Body Fat Percentage:

High body fat percentage is associated with a multitude of health risks, some of which include:

  1. Chronic Conditions:

    • Higher body fat percentages significantly increase the risks of numerous chronic health conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and metabolic syndrome among others​4​.
    • Forbes Health also links high levels of body fat to many common chronic health conditions associated with premature, preventable death​5​.
  2. Cardiovascular Diseases:

    • A high percentage of body fat can particularly enhance the risk of cardiovascular diseases, as noted by multiple sources​6​​7​.
  3. Other Health Concerns:

    • Aside from the chronic conditions and cardiovascular diseases, obesity, often resulting from a high body fat percentage, can lead to other serious health issues including certain types of cancer, liver disease, sleep apnea, and more​8​.

A great way to lose body fat is to track your macros and calories, check out our beginners guide to tracking macros here. 

These statistics and associated risks underline the critical importance of maintaining a healthy body fat percentage, not just for the individual's wellbeing, but also from a broader public health perspective. This scenario also emphasizes the need for continued public health initiatives aimed at combating obesity and promoting a healthier lifestyle among the American populace.