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What is Anthropometric Measurement? - Tools, Purpose & Methods

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  • 0:00 Anthropometric Measurements
  • 0:55 Purpose
  • 2:28 Methods & Tools
  • 4:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Anthropometric measurements are used to assess the size, shape and composition of the human body. Learn about common methods used to gather these measurements, such as BMI, waist-to-hip ratio, skin-fold test and bioelectrical impedance.

Anthropometric Measurements

This man weighs 250 pounds. So does this man. Do you see a difference? Even though these two men share the same weight, their bodies are very different in shape, structure and composition.

Simply knowing how much someone weighs does not reveal much about their overall condition. To fully assess the status of the human body, we need to utilize various anthropometric measurements, which are systematic measurements of the size, shape and composition of the human body. This is a fairly easy term to recall if you remember that the prefix 'anthropo' refers to 'human' and 'metric' refers to 'measurement.' In this lesson, we will learn why athletes, health care professionals and researchers might be interested in anthropometric measurements and the methods they use to gather this information.

Purpose

Anthropometric measurements are useful in many fields. For example, athletes understand that body size and composition are important factors in sports performance. For example, a petite man with a low percentage of body fat will be more successful as a jockey in the Kentucky Derby than he would be as a defensive lineman in the National Football League. Sports coaches can also use these measurements to monitor an athlete's body to ensure they stay in peak physical shape.

Health care professionals rely on body measurements to evaluate a patient's overall health. For example, body mass index, or BMI, is a measurement of a person's weight-to-height ratio. Health care providers, insurance companies and government agencies use BMI to determine if a person is underweight, overweight or obese. A BMI of 30 or greater indicates obesity. Because obesity is linked to chronic diseases, like heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers, knowing this anthropometric measurement can be a lifesaver.

Anthropometric measurements can also be used when studying groups of people. This broader approach allows researchers to evaluate health trends and concerns in various populations. For example, anthropometry, which is the scientific study of human body measurements, has been used to assess the nutritional status of children in underdeveloped countries. These measurements can be used to determine the prevalence of undernutrition and evaluate the need for nutritional support.

Methods & Tools

There is a range of ways to measure the human body. Some measurements are simple enough to be taken in a family doctor's office. These measurements require minimal tools. For instance, weight is a basic anthropometric measurement that is easily measured with a scale, and height can be determined with a simple measuring stick. As we learned earlier, height and weight are the only measurements needed to determine a person's BMI.

A tape measure is the only tool needed to determine a person's waist-to-hip ratio. This is a measure of the waist circumference divided by the hip circumference. This ratio is significant because your risk of heart disease increases along with this number.

Do you remember the two men we met at the beginning of this lesson? They differ in the amount of body fat they carry. We could determine just how different they are by using methods designed to measure body fat percentage. One of these methods is a skin-fold test, which is a method used to estimate a person's body fat percentage using skin fold calipers. Skin-fold calipers are simple tools used to pinch folds of skin from different areas of the body. The thickness of the skin folds is recorded and a formula is used to estimate how much body fat the person is carrying.

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