Can Smart Scales Tell How Much Body Fat You Have?

photo of someone using a smart scale

Bathroom scales have come a long way in recent years. A staple in many bathrooms for that daily morning weigh-in, these days a scale can tell you much more than just your body weight. Thanks to smart technology, so-called smart scales can measure everything from heart rate to body mass index to even bone mass. But can smart scales tell you how much body fat you have? Read on to find out more about smart scales and what they’re really good for.

What is a Smart Scale?

What if when you stepped on the scale, you could get a general overview of your health level? Well now you can, thanks to smart scales. A smart scale is an electronic bathroom scale used for measuring weight and numerous other body metrics. It then sends those metrics wirelessly to a smartphone app or another online service to store and keep a historic record of the data.

What Can a Smart Scale Measure Besides Weight?

A smart scale calculates your body water, body mass index, muscle mass, bone mass, and body fat percentage. While some of these metrics are simply readings of your body, others such as BMI are calculations based on additional information such as your sex and height.

A smart scale’s connectivity means you can track your weight loss and other metrics right from your smartphone. Apps that come with smart scales (or third-party apps) enable you to set goals, track your progress, and share your stats with other apps and services such as Apple Health or Google Fit. A smart scale becomes even more powerful when paired with a fitness tracker such as a FitBit or an Apple Watch.

Smart scales can be purchased for as little as $36 while higher-end models top out around $200.

Can Smart Scales Tell How Much Body Fat You Have?

In theory, yes, smart scales can tell you how much body fat you have (in addition to body mass index, heart rate, bone density, muscle mass, and more). But in reality, doctors say no consumer scale can accurately measure your body fat. According to Cedars Sinai, using a body fat scale may be easy and convenient, but it simply isn’t accurate. The scales tend to either overestimate or underestimate actual body fat percentage. The only truly accurate way to measure body fat is in your doctor’s office with an air displacement chamber (the Bod Pod) or even an MRI.

How Does a Smart Scale Measure Body Fat?

A smart scale uses bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) to estimate the relative percentages of different substances in the body including body fat, muscle, bone, and water. BIA works by sending a weak electrical impulse through your body. The impulse measures the different levels of resistance from the different body tissues. For instance, fat offers more resistance than muscle.

The problem is that this is not an entirely accurate method of measuring. At best, it gives a rough estimate of your actual percentage of fat and muscle. Moreover, a body fat scale can’t tell you where on your body you have excess fat. Extra fat around the midsection is known to be a strong indicator of health issues, so pinpointing where it’s located is helpful.

However, while smart scales may not provide an entirely accurate measure of body fat loss, they can help you with tracking progress. For instance, if a smart scale tells you that you have 32% body fat now, and after 3 months of increasing your activity level that’s been reduced to 26%, then you can easily know that you’re making great progress. In this case, the objective percentages are less important; it’s the progression that matters.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re trying to maintain your current weight, lose weight, or build muscle, a smart scale is a great tool to have. While no consumer scale can truly measure body fat accurately, a smart scale will help you track your progress. If you’re embarking on a fitness journey, consider combining a smart scale with a fitness tracker. This will help you see the big picture of your overall health and body composition.

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