This paper provides an overview of practical methods for assessing body composition of children, adults, and older adults. Three methods commonly used in field and clinical settings are skinfolds, bioelectrical impedance analysis, and anthropometry. For each method, standardized testing procedures, sources of measurement error, recommendations for technicians, and selected prediction equations for each age category are presented. The skinfold method is appropriate for estimating body fat of children (6–17 years) and body density of adults (18–60 years) from diverse ethnic groups. Likewise, bioimpedance is well suited tor estimating the fat-free mass of children (10-19 years) as well as American Indian, black, Hispanic, and white adults. Anthropometric prediction equations that use a combination of circumferences and bony diameters are recommended for older adults (up to 79 years of age), as well as obese men and women.
Vivian Heyward is with the Exercise Science Program, Johnson Center, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131.