Distribution of Body Fat Percentage for Men and Women in the United States - DQYDJ (2023)

On this page there is aBody fat distribution calculatorfor adult men and women in the United States in 2015-2016 and 2005-2006. It can estimate distributions for body fat percentages from a DEXA scan or body fat percentage estimates from a caliper or hydrostatic cradle.

we use itAccu-Measure Classic Caliper for $15to track our own body fat percentage. You can alsoEstimate your body fat based on your waist size and height.

See Body Fat Percentage Comparison Methodology below, which details the derivation of data and discussion of the differences between DXA and calipers.

Body Fat Percentage Calculator Comparing US Adults

The tool usedNHANES Data 2005-2006 and 2015-2016by the CDC to construct the body fat percentage distribution.

Using the Body Fat Comparison Calculator

  • body fat percentage- Enter a body fat percentage to compare with different distributions.
  • Male Female- Select the gender of the measured person
  • Measurement- Answer whether the body fat percentage was estimated using a caliper or hydrostatic weighting or by DXA scanning (Dwhat-energyx-beamABsortiometria).
    • "BodPod" will follow better withDXA
    • Bioimpedancebetter cluestweezers.
  • Calculation- When all fields are ready, click button to sort by percentile
  • Compare com:- Select the distribution to compare. Note again that there is approximately a 4% difference between the estimation types. see themethodologysection for more.

The body fat percentage distribution visualization is interactive. Mouse over the graph to see male/female body fat percentage breakpoints for each percentile.

Average and average body fat percentage for men and women

Adult men and women have different fat distributions, before and after menopause. Males are estimated to have ~2-5%essential fact– that is, without that fatthey would not survive. Women have between ~9-13% essential fat.

When a bodybuilder takes the stage with a reported figure of "3-6%", you're probably looking at someone with little subcutaneous fat (under the skin) and almost no additional visceral fat (between the organs).

Average and median body fat percentage for women

2015-2016,Women in the United States have an average of 40.9%measured by DXA. We estimated this would measure 38.0% body fat using calipers.

women had aaverage body fat percentage of 41.6%. With brake calipers, this would be around 38.7%.

Average and median body fat percentage for men

2015-2016 menin the United States an average of 28.7%measured with DXA. This would measure about 26.9% body fat with calipers.

men had aaverage body fat percentage of 28.2%. With brake calipers, this would be around 26.4%.

Selected body fat percentages for men and women

Fat body %Men (DXA)women (DXA)men (caliber)women (caliber)

Healthy body fat percentage

Disclaimer:Nothing on this site constitutes medical advice. If you are concerned about your body fat, consult a doctor.

OAmerican Council on Exercisepublish body fat percentage ranges that roughly correspond toBMI health categories.These numbers are based on body fat percentage measurements using calipers or hydrostatic weighting.

ACE Health Guidelines for Body Fat Percentage Areas (Caliper)

health sectorWomenMen
Fett Essentials10-13%2-5%

ACE Health Guidelines for Body Fat Percentage Areas (DXA Scan)

These are estimated for DXA using the equations in the methodology section below.

health sectorWomenMen
Fett Essentials16,1-18,8%6,8-9,4%

Body fat percentage distribution method

Expand the two blocks below to see our methodology. We had to estimate changes in body fat percentage using the 2005-2006 gold standard data and convert them into two-compartment models.

And before citing these data, please note that we believe they are directionally correct, but not robust enough to base a study on. Consider your methodology carefully when transforming the data in the NHANES set.

NHANES 2015-2016 method to estimate body fat percentage

OSet NHANES 2005-2006contain DXA scans of the body fat percentage of a large number of Americans. Unfortunately, there is no corresponding DXA scan data for the 2015-2016 dataset.

Orison O. Woolcott e Richard N. Bergman (2018)[1] found an accurate method to estimate body fat percentage DXATaillenumfangEfree height. We apply your relative fat mass (RFM) along the curve to the 2005-2006 and 2015-2016 data.

At each percentile, we took the percentage difference in the two sets and applied it to the 2005-2006 DEXA baseline scan data. The resulting estimate is reflected in the tool's 2015-2016 DXA dataset.


  1. Relative fat mass (RFM) as a new estimator of total body fat percentage - A cross-sectional study of American adultsOrison O. Woolcott e Richard N. Bergman (2018)
DXA and caliper/hydrostatic weight conversions

Estimation of body fat percentage with caliper

Hydrostatic weighing and body fat estimates with caliper as suggested byAmerican Council on Exercise, are based on body density estimation equations. Styles vary, but most are based (depending on the genre) on Durnin, J. & Womersley, J. (1974)[1], Andrew S. Jackson & Michael L. Pollock (1978)[2], Andrew S. Jackson, Michael L. Pollock and Ann Ward (1980)[3] or Andrew S. Jackson and Michael L. Pollock (1985)[4].

These equations are usually based onHydrostatic Weighingthen placed in a so-called two-compartment model, where the entire body mass is treated as it isfat bodyEFine tune. The most popular two-compartment models for body fat percentage derived from postmortem studies are from William E. Siri (1961)[5] and Josef Brožek, Francisco Grande, Joseph T. Anderson & Ancel Keys (1963)[6] .

Early models estimate body fat in sedentary Caucasian men and women decently but systematicallyaboveorsobEstimate body fat percentage for black, Asian and Hispanic men and women and athletes[7][8][9][10].

Best body density models

Distribution of Body Fat Percentage for Men and Women in the United States - DQYDJ (1)

Later researchers developed3-,4-,5-, (and probablymore) compartment models for human density. These treat different things like fat, muscle, organs, bones and fluids as different densities (which they are!) and greatly improve body fat percentage estimates. These efforts have been fueled by new technologies such as DXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry), which easily assigns individuals to compartments [11].

In short:Vernier calipers underestimate body fat measured by more accurate measurements such as DXA scans, as well as estimates based on itmore than 2 compartments.

DQYDJ Conversion Estimates

We used Stephen Ball, Thomas S. Altena, and Pamela D. Swan (2004)[12] 7-site regression to estimate the transformation between calipers/hydrostatic weighing and DXA for men. THE SEE (standard error of estimate) ANDabout 4.4%.

Distribution of Body Fat Percentage for Men and Women in the United States - DQYDJ (2)

For women, we used the 7-site DXA mapping provided by Stephen Ball, Pamela D. Swan, and Rosemarie Desimone (2004)[13] andWebPlotDigitizer to extract points. Again,assume a SEE of 4.4%. (Regression, see above.)

Unfortunately, DXA isn't perfect either. However,in a vacuum, DXA percentiles are a better standard than vernier calipers (at least on older HW calibrated models).


  1. Body fat determined from total body density and estimated from skinfold thickness: measurements in 481 men and women aged 16 to 72 years.Durnin, J. & Womersley, J. (1974)
  2. Generalized equations to predict male body density.Andrew S. Jackson e Michael L. Pollock (1978)
  3. Generalized equations to predict female body density.Andrew S. Jackson, Michael L. Pollock e Ann Ward (1980)
  4. Practical assessment of body composition. Andrew S. Jackson e Michael L. Pollock (1985)
  5. Body composition from fluid spaces and density: methodological analysisWilliam E. Siri (1961)
  6. Densitometric analysis of body composition: review of some quantitative assumptionsWilliam E. Siri (1961) and Josef Brožek Francis, The Great Joseph T. Anderson & Ancel Keys (1963)
  7. Validity of two-component models to estimate black body fatn Dale R. Wagner & Vivian H. Heyward (2001)
  8. Body fat measurement in Indian men: comparison of three methods based on a two-compartment model.Bhat DS, Yajnik CS, Sayyad MG, Raut KN, Lubree HG, Rege SS et al. (2005)
  9. Assessment of body compositionVivian H. Heyward 1996
  10. Measuring body composition in highly trained male athletes: a comparison of three methodsDeLorenzo, A; Bertini, ich; L Iacopino E Pagliato; and Outros (2000)
  11. Reliability and concordance between DXA-derived body volumes and their use in 4-compartment body composition models constructed from DXA and BIA values.Tinsley GM (2018)
  12. Comparing anthropometry with DXA: a new predictive equation for menStephen Ball, Thomas S. Altena e Pamela D. Swan (2004)
  13. Comparison of anthropometry with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry: a new predictive equation for womenStephen Ball, Pamela D. Schwan e Rosemarie Desimone (2004)

Body fat distribution for men and women

This was one of the most difficult calculators to create on the site. NHANES 2015-2016 not only did not measure body fat percentages, but the DXA and caliper readings have systemic differences that require conversion. Our penchant for newer datasets led us down this over-the-top path.

However, it's important to note that any consistent method is great when it comes to improving body composition and losing fat. Caliper, BIA scales, BodPod readings and DXA scans cannoshow that you are moving in the right direction and are lowering your body fat percentage. Just be very careful when translating readings between the two - you must convert.

If you haven't alreadyget cheap Accu-Measure caliper– It will track changes in your body fat percentage well until you start competing professionally.

The most important things to bring:Body fat percentage is more important as a health marker than BMI(Body mass index). For reference, here are theBMI Distribution Calculatorto see how you fare in that regard.

Distribution of Body Fat Percentage for Men and Women in the United States - DQYDJ (3)


PK started DQYDJ in 2009 to research and discuss finance and investing and to help answer financial questions. It extended DQYDJ to create visualizations, calculators and interactive tools.

PK is in his 30s and lives in New Hampshire with his wife, children and dog.

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