Monthly Archives: January 2012

Body Fat Percentage vs. Body Mass Index

The growing obesity rate in America has helped to raise awareness of the need to monitor body fat percentage.  The process use to be difficult to measure, requiring a professional to use a skin fold caliper or large volume displacement equipment.  However; in today’s high tech world, body fat percentage can be measured with electrical impedance.  This can be as easy as entering your sex, age, and height into a specialized home scale and stepping barefoot on the scale to check your weight.

The American Council on Exercise classifies body fat percentage into 5 categories divided between women and men:

Description                          Women                              Men

Essential Fat                       10-13%                             2-5%

Athletes                             14-20%                            6-13%

Fitness                               21-24%                          14-17%

Average                              25-31%                          18-24%

Obese                                   32%+                             25%+

Body Mass Index is a less accurate measure of body fat based on height and weight.  It does not require any equipment but it is limited by individual body composition and structure.  For instance, a 6 foot 210 lbs. body builder with 7% body fat would fall at the high end of the “overweight” category.  However, for most individuals it is an easy way to check if you have a healthy body weight for your height.  The National Institutes of Health classifies Body Mass Index into four categories:

Underweight – Less than 18.5

Normal weight – 18.5 – 24.9

Overweight – 25 – 29.9

Obese – 30 or greater

A simple Body Mass Index calculator can be found at :

By:  Steven L. Bernstein PT, OMT


A New Year A New Goal

A new year is here and we all make a conscious effort to start the year with a clean slate. The most common resolution is to eat healthier and exercise. The percent of us that are able to stick with our goal through out the year is low. It is difficult for many of us to continue on a healthy path because the changes do not happen quickly. There are things you can do to help you to be successful.

A suggestion would be to first think about your attitude and what are the benefits of exercises. It will improve the quality of your life, it helps you break away from a stressful day, it will boost your energy and mood. Most people are afraid to begin an exercise program in fear that it may be painful and they will not be able to stick with it. Positive reinforcement from someone whether a friend, partner, or coworker helps you to stay on track. Sharing your diet plan, exercising together, or just discussing your plan or frustration is helpful. At times it is difficult to stay on track and you may hit a bump in the road, but don’t be discouraged or feel you have failed.

It is important to have a detailed plan, it will help your chances of being consistent, whether it is making a decision to go to a fitness center, going for a walk, or riding your bike. Decide on a time of day that will be easiest for you to do. Plan your meals and snacks. It is less difficult to stick with something that is not so complicated, small tasks are much easier to handle. This may make you feel that you have accomplished something.

A good fitness program consists of exercises that work the total body. The human body needs to be stimulated in order to be fit. A cardio workout helps the heart, lungs, and circulatory system and resistive exercises help the function of muscles, bones, and joints.

Even if it has been difficult to get started and you have challenges ahead of you, as Nike says “Just Do It”. You will be much happier in the long run.

By: Rita Zimmerman, LPTA/CLT

Driving with Back Pain

It has been reported that 80 percent of Americans will experience low back pain at some point in their lives.  For those of us who live with back pain, driving can be an activity that brings on discomfort or makes existing pain worse.  While driving is an activity that cannot be avoided, certain steps can be taken to lessen the discomfort associated with prolonged rides in the car.

Degenerative changes at the inter-vertebral disks lead to inflammation and pain with prolonged sitting due to an increase of pressure inside the disk.  Slouch sitting makes this phenomenon worse.  The low back muscles will contract to try to prevent the slouching, but this will cause soreness with the prolonged tightening of the muscles.  Sitting in a car seat with the legs extended promotes a slouched posture which can become more pronounced with the constant bumps and vibrations associated with driving.  Attempt to improve sitting posture in the car by utilizing the lumbar support adjustment in the car seat.  If your car does not have a built in lumbar support, one can be purchased at a local auto shop.  The support will help to keep your posture more upright, alleviating stress on the disks.  Next, pay attention to the bend in your left knee.  By bending the knee, you will take tension off of the hamstrings which can pull the pelvis into the slouched position.  Finally, take breaks from driving on longer road trips.  By stopping and getting out of the car for intermittent walk breaks, you will improve circulation at the low back and prevent inflammation from building.  Try not to wait until pain is present before taking a break.

These tips should help to make your next car trip a little more comfortable.

by: Steven L. Bernstein PT, OMT