How far should you go? How fit is "fit enough?"
One organization that has very definite standards for fitness is the United States Marine Corps. If you are fit enough for duty in the USMC, then you are fit enough.
Today we're going to look at one aspect of fitness: body fat. A later post will look at the other part of the Marines' fitness test, which involves performance.
Are you too fat to be a Marine? To find out, you are going to need a few data points. The first test, which most American men will fail, only requires knowing your height and weight. Look at this table, find your height in the left column. Is your weight in between the numbers in the middle and right columns?
|Height||Maximum Weight||Minimum Weight|
If you weigh less than the smaller number, you're too skinny and need to bulk up. If, as is more likely, you weigh more than the higher number, you might need to lose some weight. Or you might just be very muscular. To find out, you need a more sophisticated measurement.
For this next step, you need some additional information. You need to measure the circumference of your waist, measured at your belly button with the tape measure level and flat against your skin. And you need to measure the circumference of your neck.
Once you have those measurements, go plug them in to this calculator:
Body Fat Calculator
This will give you an estimate of your body fat percentage. While it's only an estimate, it's better than most other methods of estimating your body fat, it's a lot cheaper than a DexaScan, and it's the method the Marines use.
How fat is too fat? That depends on your age. According to the Marine Corps, you are fit for duty if your body fat is below the listed number for your age range (these are all for men, women are allowed a higher number):
Age 17-26: 18%
Age 27-39: 19%
Age 40-45: 20%
Age 46+: 21%
If you are a member of the USMC and you are above those numbers, you will be placed into a program designed to reduce your body fat. If you don't meet the standards within six months, you'll be discharged. If you aren't a Marine, you might be able to get away with being a bit fatter. But if you reach this goal, you will probably live longer. And you'll be more attractive to women.
I'll fess up here: I need to lose about three inches off my waist to meet the body fat standard for my age. I'm working on it.