Monday, February 7, 2011

Body Composition with DEXA Scans

After seeing it on The Biggest Loser, I wanted to have a DEXA Scan done on myself to evaluate how much fat and muscle I truly had.

I had no idea how few places actually did this. I only found one in my area. A DEXA scan is primarily used to check bone density, but some practices use it to measure body composition, as well.

Anyone out there saying their scale measures this for them, prepare to have your mind blown. Whether you are using a scale or one of the handheld grip devices, the unit's energy waves only penetrate about half of your body depending on your size. Please bear in mind this is standard stock stuff, nothing too fancy or expensive.

Now for me, it didn't end up making that much of a difference, I think that may be attributed to my short stature and the fact that most of my fat is in my belly. However, if you carry your muscle or fat primarily in your legs or arms, these devices may give you unreliable information.

I've had DEXA scans done twice. Unfortunately the results weren't drastically different, but I know one day they will be. Actually, I can't say I have a 100% accurate reading because my technician was talking on her cell phone and didn't realize that parts of my body were hanging out of bounds each time. (Yes, part of this is because I am large)

So do you have to be afraid to do this test? Not really. I went to an integrative medical clinic and they do it there. If you aren't familiar with integrative medicine, it is a concept where doctors who are primarily MDs integrate alternative therapies into their everyday practices. These doctors are very health conscious and actually study electromagnetic waves and the body so if they tell you it's low grade risk then you're good to go.

When they did the scan I kept my street clothes and just laid down. I totally felt like I was a document being scanned into a computer, which I guess was fairly accurate. To avoid movement they did confine my legs together, but otherwise the scanner hovers about a foot overhead and moves down and then up your body so you aren't enclosed. In less than 10 minutes you are ready to go.

A couple of weeks later I receive a full report in the mail that is fairly easy to explain. Not only does it give you an overall reading, it gives you a region reading so you can also see if your body is symmetrical. This can be of benefit if you have had a sports injury so you know what you need to do to balance your body.

For me, the scan itself wasn't very expensive, but I had to pay an initial visit fee with the doctor which was expensive.

There are other options out there, the Bod Pod is supposed to be accurate, but it cannot accommodate everyone. There's also the tried and true hydrostatic testing otherwise known as going in the "dunk tank".

For now, I can't wait until I fit in the line guides and know I have an accurate measurement. Furthermore, I can't wait to see my body composition change and as a techie am excited to be able track my progress.

Has anyone else tried this or other types of testing? What do you think?

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