In the summer I went for my first DEXA scan which measures body fat percentage, bone density and lean body mass.
DEXA is the most accurate method to measure body fat percentage. It works like an X-ray machine and is used in hospitals to diagnose people with osteoporosis.
Its medical grade accuracy makes it appealing to the sports and fitness worlds. People involved in sport science use it to measure and track the body composition of professional sports people and fitness enthusiasts.
Unlike other body fat measuring methods like callipers and bioimpedance, a DEXA scan tells you exactly where the fat stores are. We all have a propensity to store fat in different areas depending on gender, genetics and lifestyle.
Good body composition is vital to increasing longevity and overall health.
If you are lifting weights for longevity an increase in lean body mass will lead to a favourable change in body composition. Your muscles will increase, your bone density will improve and if you have the correct diet your body fat will decrease.
If however, you have surplus body fat you are basically turning into a woman. This is a feminisation process in which the more fat you have the more the testosterone to oestrogen ratio changes unfavourably. An increase in fat mass will also lead to metabolic syndrome.
In short, lots of body fat will lead you to an early death.
Equally important is bone density which basically means the amount of bone mineral in the bone tissue. Diet, physical activity and other lifestyle factors can affect your bone mass.
Bones play many vital roles in the body. They provide structure, protect the organs and muscles and are also used to store calcium. If your bone density is poor it can lead to osteoporosis though exercise in the form of weight lifting, walking and running helps. Understanding family history is important in this case also.
The DEXA scan procedure is quick and painless
It requires you to lie on a surface as the machine works its way down your body scanning you from head to toe. The company I used is Body Scan which is one of the first facilities to provide a DEXA scan in the UK.
Body Scan offers different levels of service and plans based on how many times you want to use it. I opted for a 15 minute review with a consultant after my scan. There is an option to spent an hour with one which costs more but all the spaces were full at the time I was there.
I found a YouTube video where a consultant from Body Scan talks through the results with a fitness model. I watched this as I went through my own report.
Below are my results. My notes are to the right that helped me make sense of the data.
The DEXA scan eradicates any beliefs that you’re under ten percent body fat. The consultant said if you’re ten percent on the callipers you’ll be around 17 percent on the DEXA scan.
My scan said I was at 19 percent which would be 12 percent on the callipers which sounds about right.
I carry more fat around the gynoid region which is usually higher in women not men. I should get my estrogen levels checked to ensure they’re not too high.
Using the DEXA to set a benchmark
When working on your health it’s important to track your progress. This can include the weights you lift, the time it takes to run 10K, your testosterone levels, resting heart rate and anything else related to your health you can keep track of.
Self-tracking allows you to set a benchmark to your health and longevity protocol so you can track your progress as you develop.
DEXA scan is perfect to continuously track and monitor body composition. Each year I will have a scan to ensure that I am making progress. The numbers don’t lie so if no progress has been made or, worse yet, my body composition has deteriorated then I will be held accountable.
Do I recommend getting a DEXA scan?
I recommend the DEXA scan for professional sports people, fitness enthusiasts, quantified-selfers and people like me who are focussed on longevity.
A DEXA scan is not cheap. I paid £99 for the scan and a 15 minute consultation with a trainee consultant. This is performed under the supervision of a fully trained consultant. A scan plus one hour face-to-face consultation costs £159. A four deal package costs £399.
My next yearly scan is due this summer. If my training and nutrition intake continue I should have lost some fat and gained a little muscle. Time will tell.