Your weight in pounds doesn't distinguish between body fat and lean muscle mass.
MayoClinic.com states that about half of United States' adults are at a healthy weight according to their bathroom scale, but have too much body fat putting them at risk for chronic disease. The number on the scale does not differentiate between fat and lean muscle mass, so it's important to know your body fat percentage. A healthy body fat percentage varies by gender and age. By knowing what yours is, you can determine if you need to shed some excess fat to keep your health in tip-top shape.
Body Fat for Adult Males
A healthy body fat percentage for an 18-year-old male falls between 10 and 19 percent, while a 19-year-old male should be between 9 and 19 percent. Men 20 to 39 years are in the healthy range at 8 to 19 percent. Adult males 40 to 59 years should strive for 11 to 21 percent body fat and those 60 and over want to have between 13 and 24 percent body fat.
Body Fat for Adult Females
There's a reason why females have a harder time losing those extra pounds. Nature gave a woman more enzymes to store fat and less to burn it in case she needs to support a developing baby. As a result, women have about 5 percent more body fat than men. A healthy body fat percentage for an 18-year-old girl is between 17 and 30 percent, while a 19-year-old should fall between 19 and 31 percent. Adult females 20 to 39 years should strive for a body fat percentage between 21 and 32 percent. Forty to 59-year-old women should fall within the 23 to 33 percent range, while those 60 years and older should be between 24 and 35 percent.
Body Fat for Boys
A healthy body fat percentage for 5- and 6-year-old boys is between 12 and 18 and 12 and 19 percent, respectively. The low end of a healthy body fat for a 7- to 11-year-old is 13 percent, while the high end is 19 for a 7-year-old, 20 for an 8-year-old, 21 for a 9-year-old and 22 for a 10- or 11-year-old. Twelve- and 13-year-old children should fall between 12 and 22 percent and 12 and 21 percent, respectively. A 14-year-old boy should shoot for 11 to 20 percent body fat, a 15-year-old 10 to 20 percent and 16- and 17-year-old boys should aim for 10 to 19 percent body fat.
Body Fat for Girls
A 5-year-old girl should have 14 to 21 percent body fat, while a 6-year-old girl is considered healthy at 14 to 22 percent. The low end of a healthy body fat range for 7- and 8-year-old girls is 15 percent, while the high end is 24 and 25 percent, respectively. The lower end for 9- to 17-year-old girls is 16 percent, while the high end is 26 percent for a 9-year-old, 27 percent for a 10-year-old, 28 percent for an 11- to 13-year-old and 29 percent for 14- to 17-year-old girls.
According to MayoClinic.com, there are commercial body fat analyzers available for you to purchase, but their reliability isn't the best. If you are interested in knowing your body fat percentage, speak with your physician about other techniques. Three that are available are dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, air displacement plethysmography and underwater weighing. More expensive tests include an MRI or CT scan. If you're a gym rat, find a personal trainer at your gym and ask him to take skinfold measurements. He will use calipers to measure your skinfold thickness at several sites and plug them into an equation to estimate your body fat.