New machine offers a faster, more accurate way to measure a body, track a fitness routine

11:12 AM, Jan 19, 2010   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS -- In a room on the bottom floor of the University of Minnesota's Rec Center sits a curious contraption called a Bod Pod.

"It looks like this giant egg, but measures your body fat percentage," said Sarah Mork of the U of M's Department of Recreational Sports.

It does look like an egg, but it's actually two high-tech chambers. The one in the back is a reference area. The other is where you're tested.

So, you sit in it. It's just a couple minutes. It measures how much air you've displaced, basically. So, it gets your body's volume. You also take your body mass on a scale. From those values you can derive your body mass percentage," Mork continued.

In other words, how much of you is fat and how much is everything else?

For the most accurate test possible you enter the Bod Pod wearing a cap over your hair and a minimal amount of tight -fitting clothing, like a swimsuit or biking shorts. You should also avoid exercising and eating for a couple hours prior to the test.

Once inside the Bod Pod you simply sit still while the machine measures the air you've displaced. The test is quick, and according to Sarah Mork, very reliable.

"Plus or minus two-percent accuracy... One of the most accurate ones you're going to get," Mork added.

In just a few seconds after climbing out of the Bod Pod, the computer spits out results.

"Gives you your percent fat and fat-free mass," Mork said while explaining my data summary.

According to the Bod Pod, 29.4-percent of me is fat. In other words, of my 188-pounds, 55 is fat. That puts me in the excess fat category. It's a reading Mork says is very common among the people she's tested.

As hard as it is to see the results showing excess fat, Mork says they'll come in handy as I begin another round of eating right and working out. She says the machine will reveal progress I wouldn't be able to see on a scale alone.

"With the Bod Pod, you can see maybe you've had a reduction in your fat mass, but you've gained some muscle mass over time. So you've lost two pounds of fat, but you've gained two pounds of muscle. That's a huge improvement in body composition," Mork said.

The U of M's Bod Pod is located on the bottom floor of the Rec Center at 1906 University Avenue SE in Minneapolis. Using it costs $25 for Rec Center members and $40 for everyone else.

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