Allied Health Faculty Publications

Comparing Alternate Percent Body Fat Estimation Techniques for United States Navy Body Composition Assessment

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International Journal of Kinesiology in Higher Education



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As a result of a Department of Defense (DoD) mandate, the U.S. Navy implemented its current body composition assessment (BCA) program in 1982. Despite the feasibility of the current program, its reliability, validity, and applicability have long since been called into question. As a result of these concerns, the Naval Health Research Center (NHRC) has conducted several research studies in the past to find a more accurate, affordable, and/or time-efficient body fat estimation technique. However, none of the NHRC studies resulted in changes to the Navy’s BCA program. The purpose of this study was three-fold: 1) evaluate the accuracy of the Navy’s current circumference measurement (CM) technique against an established criterion standard (i.e., Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA)), 2) develop new CM regression equations based on DEXA measurements, and 3) determine if a simplified CM technique could be developed while still providing an accurate percent body fat estimation. The results of the study showed that using standalone DEXA measurements would increase the estimated percent body fat for males and decrease the estimated percent body fat for females as compared with the Navy’s current method. However, slight changes to the Navy’s CM sites and estimated percent body fat prediction equations could simplify testing procedures, provide Navy personnel with more accurate information in terms of their health risk, as well as maintain estimated percent body fat accuracy without any associated increases in terms of cost, training, or administration time.


Body composition, fitness testing, dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, circumference measurements, percent body fat estimation