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Body Fat Percentage by Age Comparison Calculator for the United States

September 4th, 2020 by 
PK

On this page is a body fat percentage comparison calculator by age for adult men and women in the United States in 2015-2016 and 2005-2006. It estimates distributions for both DEXA scan body fat percentages or hydrostatic weighing & caliper body fat percentage estimates.

At home we use the cheap Accu-Measure caliper to track our body fat percentage. You can also estimate your body fat from waist size & height.

Alternatively, see body fat percentage for all US adults here. We also have an (inferior) BMI distribution post and BMI calculator.

Body Fat Percentage by Age Comparison Calculator for US Adults

The tool uses 2005-2006 and 2015-2016 NHANES data from the CDC to construct the body fat percentage distribution.

Using the Body Fat Percentage by Age Comparison Calculator

  • Body Fat Percentage - enter a body fat percentage..
  • Male / Female - select a sex
  • Age - enter the age range of the person measured
  • Measurement - answer whether the body fat percentage was estimated from hydrostatic weighting/calipers, or Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) scan
    • For "BodPod" pick DXA
    • For Bioimpedence scales/devices pick Calipers.
  • Calculate - when all fields are ready, hit the button to rank a percentile
  • Compare to: - choose the distribution to compare against; we'll convert the measurement in question if necessary. There is a ~4% difference between estimate types, but not across the range. See the methodology.
  • Graph Ages - body fat distribution varies significantly by age. You can select other ages to compare male and female distributions at those ages.

The body fat percentage by age distribution visualization is interactive. Hover your mouse over the graph to see the male/female body fat percentage breakpoints for each centile.

Median and Average Body Fat Percentage for Men and Women

Essential fat is mandatory fat in and around organs, in nerves, in the brain, in marrow, and in other places where fat is needed for proper bodily function. Post-puberty, men and women have different baseline essential fat needs

Roughly ~2-5% of male mass is essential body fat. Women have between ~9-13% essential fat. Losing essential fat compromises bodily function - and can lead to death. Note these theoretical "minimums", as well as the difference between men and women.

Remember, all statistics below are estimated using the listed methodology. Caliper results are further estimated off of the DXA estimates.

Average Body Fat Percentage by Age for Women

Age CategoryFemale Average BF% (DXA)Female Average BF% (Caliper)
18-2437.05%33.57%
25-2938.09%34.75%
30-3439.73%36.59%
35-3940.98%38.00%
40-4441.39%38.46%
45-4940.46%37.41%
50-5442.39%39.59%
55-5942.91%40.18%
60-6443.64%41.00%
65-6943.89%41.28%
70-7443.73%41.10%
75-7942.74%39.98%
80+43.17%40.47%

Average Body Fat Percentage by Age for Men

Age CategoryMale Average BF% (DXA)Male Average BF% (Caliper)
18-2424.81%22.48%
25-2925.40%23.16%
30-3427.76%25.85%
35-3928.53%26.73%
40-4428.34%26.51%
45-4928.17%26.32%
50-5429.25%27.55%
55-5929.33%27.63%
60-6430.17%28.60%
65-6931.06%29.60%
70-7431.10%29.65%
75-7931.53%30.14%
80+31.10%29.65%

Median Body Fat Percentage by Age for Women

Age CategoryFemale Median BF% (DXA)Female Median BF% (Caliper)
18-2437.80%34.42%
25-2938.48%35.19%
30-3440.27%37.21%
35-3940.99%38.02%
40-4442.38%39.57%
45-4940.13%37.04%
50-5442.41%39.61%
55-5943.27%40.57%
60-6444.00%41.40%
65-6944.91%42.43%
70-7444.60%42.08%
75-7943.95%41.35%
80+44.14%41.56%

Median Body Fat Percentage by Age for Men

Age CategoryMale Median BF% (DXA)Male Median BF% (Caliper)
18-2424.02%21.59%
25-2925.57%23.36%
30-3427.78%25.87%
35-3928.74%26.96%
40-4428.81%27.05%
45-4928.31%26.48%
50-5429.02%27.28%
55-5929.39%27.70%
60-6429.71%28.06%
65-6930.87%29.39%
70-7430.15%28.57%
75-7931.37%29.97%
80+30.71%29.21%

Selected Body Fat Percentage Centiles for Men and Women

We pulled out some selected body fat percentages for both men and women. These are, of course, also included in the calculator if you'd prefer to consume them that way. (Also note that body fat percentages near the extremes - the top/bottom 1-3% - have extra error built in.)

Bear with us since this reporting encompasses four tables, for men and women and for DXA and caliper derived measurements.

Selected Body Fat Percentiles for Men by Age (DXA)

Age Category10%25%50%75%90%
18-2415.71%18.70%24.02%29.42%35.82%
25-2916.23%20.47%25.57%29.73%36.20%
30-3419.66%22.77%27.78%32.03%36.87%
35-3919.47%25.16%28.74%32.34%36.75%
40-4419.80%25.19%28.81%31.33%34.79%
45-4920.53%24.43%28.31%32.05%35.30%
50-5423.12%24.88%29.02%32.03%36.63%
55-5921.70%26.49%29.39%33.18%37.96%
60-6423.31%26.07%29.71%34.40%38.02%
65-6926.12%27.19%30.87%34.88%37.65%
70-7426.01%28.06%30.15%34.54%37.89%
75-7926.40%28.25%31.37%34.87%38.59%
80+26.59%27.29%30.71%34.17%37.69%

Selected Body Fat Percentiles for Men by Age (Caliper)

Age Category10%25%50%75%90%
18-2412.12%15.52%21.59%27.74%35.02%
25-2912.71%17.54%23.36%28.09%35.46%
30-3416.62%20.17%25.87%30.71%36.23%
35-3916.40%22.88%26.96%31.07%36.09%
40-4416.78%22.92%27.05%29.91%33.86%
45-4917.61%22.06%26.48%30.73%34.44%
50-5420.56%22.57%27.28%30.72%35.95%
55-5918.94%24.41%27.70%32.02%37.47%
60-6420.78%23.92%28.06%33.41%37.53%
65-6923.98%25.20%29.39%33.96%37.11%
70-7423.86%26.20%28.57%33.57%37.39%
75-7924.30%26.41%29.97%33.94%38.18%
80+24.52%25.32%29.21%33.15%37.16%

Selected Body Fat Percentiles for Women by Age (DXA)

Age Category10%25%50%75%90%
18-2426.78%30.75%37.80%42.18%45.89%
25-2928.67%32.45%38.48%44.44%48.30%
30-3431.99%34.48%40.27%43.50%48.38%
35-3929.96%35.65%40.99%46.18%49.34%
40-4433.34%36.55%42.38%45.80%48.77%
45-4931.67%35.24%40.13%45.04%49.60%
50-5434.38%39.02%42.41%45.51%48.96%
55-5934.65%38.59%43.27%46.00%50.33%
60-6433.12%39.28%44.00%48.13%50.37%
65-6938.30%39.23%44.91%47.41%50.39%
70-7438.02%38.76%44.60%47.01%49.80%
75-7934.87%38.32%43.95%46.71%49.63%
80+37.36%39.15%44.14%46.33%48.91%

Selected Body Fat Percentiles for Women by Age (Caliper)

Age Category10%25%50%75%90%
18-2422.01%26.48%34.42%39.35%43.53%
25-2924.14%28.40%35.19%41.90%46.24%
30-3427.88%30.68%37.21%40.83%46.33%
35-3925.59%32.00%38.02%43.86%47.42%
40-4429.40%33.01%39.57%43.43%46.77%
45-4927.51%31.53%37.04%42.57%47.70%
50-5430.56%35.80%39.61%43.10%46.98%
55-5930.87%35.31%40.57%43.65%48.52%
60-6429.15%36.09%41.40%46.06%48.58%
65-6934.99%36.03%42.43%45.24%48.60%
70-7434.67%35.50%42.08%44.79%47.93%
75-7931.12%35.00%41.35%44.46%47.75%
80+33.92%35.94%41.56%44.03%46.93%

Healthy Body Fat Percentage

Disclaimer: Nothing on this site is medical advice. If you're concerned with your body fat or other health markers, please consult with a medical professional.

The American Council on Exercise publishes body fat percentage ranges which roughly correspond with BMI health categories. These numbers are based on caliper or hydrostatic weighting body fat percentage readings. We've translated them (according to the listed methodology) to DXA estimates below.

ACE Health Guidelines for Body Fat Percentage Ranges (Caliper)

Health RangeWomenMen
Essential Fat10-13%2-5%
Athletic14-20%6-13%
Fit21-24%14-17%
Acceptable25-31%18-24%
Obese32%+25%+

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

Here are the estimates translated for DXA readings according to our methodology.

Health RangeWomenMen
Essential Fat16.1-18.8%6.8-9.4%
Athletic19.7-25%10.3-16.5%
Fit25.9-28.6%17.4-20.0%
Acceptable29.4-34.8%20.9-26.1%
Obese35.7%+27.0%+

Body Fat Percentage Distribution Methodology

For the most part, the methodology in this post matched the methodology from our previous aggregate post on body fat percentage distribution in the United States.

Here's the short version of the methodology for this post

  1. Calculate the RFM – Relative Fat Mass – for 2005-2006 and 2015-2016 NHANES samples and across age groups. Reuse the 65-69 age group ranges for 70-74, 75-79, 80+ age ranges (no data otherwise).
  2. Compute the difference between RFM and DXA measured body fat centiles for all age groups and sexes. Compute the difference between RFM and DXA measured body fat percentage average for all age groups and sexes.
  3. Apply the differences to the 2015-2016 RFM computed centiles for all age groups and sexes. Apply the difference in average for all age groups and sexes.
  4. Where DXA to caliper conversion is necessary for males, use the 7-site regression equation from Stephen Ball, Thomas S Altena & Pamela D. Swan (2004)
  5. Where DXA to caliper conversion is necessary for females, use the 7-site data and a DQYDJ-derived linear equation from Stephen Ball, Pamela D. Swan & Rosemarie Desimone (2004)

An explanation for how and why we came to this methodology is in the previous post. Because of the uncertainty around conversions, be especially wary of values near the top and bottom of the ranges.

Also, note the SEE – standard error of estimate – is roughly 4.2% for the caliper and DXA conversions. It is possible - however unlikely - that a DXA reading would be less than a hydrostatic weighing or caliper reading.

Body Fat Percentage Distribution by Age for Men and Women

Body fat percentage is a much better way to track your physical health status than BMI. (Of course, we do also have a BMI distribution by age calculator and BMI calculator).

BMI only takes into account your height and weight in making a determination on health status. Body fat percentage attempts to divide lean and fatty composition for an individual, isolating the most damaging kind of tissue - stored fat.

Variations in the 'lean' types of tissue or fluids, such as water and blood volume, organ weight, bone weight ("big boned" vs. "small framed"), and especially muscle make a big enough difference in an individual to sometimes cause BMI errors. Additionally, as original BMI models were based on middle aged Caucasian men and women, BMI systematically makes Type I and Type II errors more common for other races and ethnicities. We'll follow up with a post on how often body fat percentage and BMI disagree.

Back to body fat percentage by age - it's very useful to look at the data in this way. Women usually hit two (or three) major hormonal shifts which affect body composition - puberty, menopause, and (for upwards of 70+%) pregnancy and childbirth. Men also hit puberty, and face some combination of a lifestyle and age related decline in testosterone post-puberty which makes it harder to hold onto muscle as they age.

Both sexes, unless committed to frequent exercise, face the devastating effects of sarcopenia, or age related decline in muscle mass. This can be cause a whopping 3-5% of muscle loss per year in idle individuals.

Our message: grab the cheap Accu-Measure caliper – calipers will give you a fine directional reading on body fat percentage. Lift weights a few times a week. Eat well every day.

Do these things and you'll have a healthy body fat percentage.

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