What Your Body Composition Test Isn’t Telling You: A DEXA Scan Review

DEXA Scan Body Composition Testing

Disclosure: I received this test free of charge in exchange for my blog review and community education. All opinions, test results, photos, and content are my own. Huge thank you to the Mandis Agency and Iowa Ortho for their generosity and support of this blog!

Body composition testing—I know you’ve heard of it. Chances are you’ve probably gotten yours tested at some point in your life, whether it was using water displacement for sports in high school, a bio-impedance scale at your gym, or caliper testing at home or with your doctor. There are MANY options to choose from when you want to test your body composition and all are beneficial. The most common approach I see in the fitness world is either calipers or bio-impedance scales. Calipers, unless used by a trained professional, can result in significant differences between tests (not to mention, who wants to pinch their skin to measure their body fat? Talk about making you feel bad about yourself…). Bio-impedance scales (BIA) are certainly easier and can give you a general idea of body fat percentage (BF%), lean muscle mass, hydration status, etc. However, the BIA is heavily dependent on time of day, hydration, and electrolyte status to name a few confounds. So how can you accurately and reliably measure your body’s make up? Enter: The DEXA Scan.

What is it? Will it hurt? What’s the procedure like?

Dexa Scan table

The DEXA scan (Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry) was originally developed in the 1980s to measure bone density in the aging population. Now, in addition to bone density, it is used to measure subcutaneous and visceral adipose tissue (surface layer body fat and fat around internal organs, respectively) and lean muscle mass distribution. It is the gold standard in body composition testing. Why? Well, for one, it’s the most reproducible body composition test out there. Also, hydration, electrolytes, proximity to a workout, etc. have no bearing on the results. (Insert raise-the-roof emoji here… and cry-laughing emoji… k, side bar: there need to be emojis for bloggers.) Not to mention, unlike a bio-impedance scale that will give you an overall reading of body composition, a DEXA scan tells you exactly where you’re holding fatty tissue and muscle, down to each arm, leg, and foot.

Dexa Scan

Now, let me assure you, although these images look like they’re very medically-oriented, the DEXA scan does not hurt, and you don’t have to do anything other than lie still on a table. The orthopedic clinic I went to had me undress and wear one of those oh-so-stylish hospital gowns (insert cry-laughing emoji again, haha). They also taped my feet together to keep my legs from rotating outward (pretty sure that’s common practice for the scans). After that, you lie on the table and it slowly glides you back and forth under the scanner. It’s not noisy at all and you cannot feel anything other than the table moving. It’s a painless procedure that lasts all of 4 minutes. Note, though, that lying still means no talking either. I definitely tried to have a conversation with the nurse while this was going on and she promptly shut me up. HAH.

The Results (and yes, these are mine).

DEXA Scan Results

Above is the full report you receive once the scan is done. In the spirit of full transparency, I wanted to post my individual report here instead of the generic sample report from Jane Doe. I always keep it honest on the blog, and this is my way of showing you all you don’t need to be ashamed of your body, whatever your numbers are. Yep, I’ve definitely gained some weight in recent years (upwards of 20lbs). I used to be somewhat ashamed of that, but honestly, I’m really not concerned with it anymore. I’m more interested in how my body functions and feels. That said, let’s look at this more in depth.

Body Images and Composition Chart

Below are a zoomed in look at the images of my body and the composition results chart. The images, as you can see, are of the different types of mass (left) and ratio of fat to area of the body (right). In the left image, you can visually understand your body composition. No bio-impedance scale, water displacement tank, or caliper can do that! (For reference, blue = bone; red = muscle; yellow = fat.)

DEXA Body Images

Now here’s the interesting part. This chart gives you the exact distribution of fat, lean muscle, and bone mineral content (BMC) per body area. So cool! So, for example, my left arm has 2.20lb of fat and 5.51lb of combined lean muscle and bone. The fat percentile columns are a comparison of your body to “young normal range” (YN—a large group of 20-30 year olds), and age-matched (AM—people your specific age). The lower the number, the better (for reference, they go from 1-100).

DEXA Body Composition Results

The other chart pictured in the first full image is a list of different fat ratios throughout my body. These are important because certain ratios can indicate a higher risk for obesity, increased risk for cardiovascular disease, and other health complications. For example, % Fat Trunk / % Fat Legs is a ratio of how much adipose tissue you have in your trunk (abdomen, back, chest) versus your legs. The ideal ratio for women is below 0.8, and below 1.0 for men. The higher the ratio, the higher percentage of fat you likely hold in your trunk, which can be a risk factor for certain heart and pulmonary conditions.

The Takeaways and Cost

So what does one make of all this? It’s a lot of information thrown at you all at once! I’ll admit, even though I understood some of it on my own, without a professional explanation, I wouldn’t have been able to make sense of the more detailed results. The main take-home point here is to use this as a tool to reliably measure your body composition across time. I’d suggest getting multiple scans done—once as a baseline measure, and then again maybe a few months into a new fitness routine or healthier way of eating to track your progress.

The cost of this test will depend on where you are and what clinic/orthopedic facility you go to. For those local to Iowa, Iowa Ortho does the DEXA scan for $39.99. Insurance does not usually cover them, so they are typically an out of pocket expense, but are very affordable. For more info, and to check your local DEXA provider, go to their website here.

Readers: chat with me! Have you heard of a DEXA scan before? Have you ever had one done? If not, are you interested in doing one? Do you track your body composition in other ways? How’s your Monday going?

Making Time To Slow Down with Resveralife

Resveralife Review

Disclosure: While I was not paid to write this post, I was gifted these items by Resveralife for review here on the blog. I always keep it honest here, so all content, opinions, and images are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog!

It seems like everyone’s life is crazy busy… but I don’t need to tell any of you that. I could list all the reasons why my life has been insanely hectic recently (graduate school being number one), but that’s not the point of this post. Yes, all of us have a crazy number of to-dos, life demands, relationship demands, worries, stressors, etc. etc., it’s no wonder we’re all so strung out. It’s funny, I was sitting in the sauna recently and a woman (speaking to her friend about a meditation & yoga class) said, “It’s sad when we have to take a class to learn how to relax.” Ain’t that the truth.

But it really is true. We have to force ourselves to MAKE the time and space for calm, for slowing down. Grad school has been quite a challenge, but this last semester has me freaking out. I’ve never felt this sense of dread and imposter syndrome like I do now trying to develop my culminating research project. The mounting anxiety I have is almost paralyzing sometimes (and I’m normally a cool-headed person), so I’ve been purposefully taking a few minutes every night to lie down on the floor, close my eyes, breathe, and listen to calming music—a mini meditation if you will. I’ve also (slowly) been trying to reintroduce yoga into my routine. I’m not naturally drawn to it (Go strength! Lift all the weights!), but I am taking classes here and there to try to introduce calm. Given all of that, I was excited about the chance to review a few products that can certainly help with this relaxation vibe and create that calming space we sometimes need. Enter Resveralife.

Aromatherapy and Relaxation

Resveralife Essential Oil Diffuser

I was pretty pumped to try this essential oil diffuser. I’ve wanted to get into oils for a while, but I don’t want to walk around smelling like them, so diffusing them was the next best thing. I’ve been diffusing lavender before bed just about every night, and maybe it’s a placebo effect, but I do feel like it helps me relax and wind down. In fact, those 5 minutes of lying on my floor listening to calming music or a guided meditation are becoming something I really look forward to.

The diffuser itself is very lightweight and easily used. The plastic top comes off, you just put in a few ounces of water and a few drops of oil, and voila. I’m sure that’s how almost all diffusers are, but this is the first one I’ve ever had. :) I like the ambiance it creates with the LED lighting that gradually transitions between all colors on the spectrum. The one drawback I found is that the plastic top doesn’t lock into the base, so if it tips, the lid just comes right off. Great for ease of filling, but could be better designed. I also think it’s a bit on the expensive side at $59.99, especially since it doesn’t come with any oils. That said, it seems like diffusers can run the gamut from $20 to $120+, so this one is right in the middle.

Resveralife Essential Oil Diffuser
Resveralife Essential Oil Diffuser red

Stretching & Yoga

Stretching and yoga are two things I am admittedly horrible at maintaining in my fitness routine. I feel like a hypocrite for saying so, but I have to actively think about making time to stretch. (Probably why my muscles and joints are now screaming at me these days to go slower!) I’ve been trying to attend more yoga classes recently in order to force myself to move slower, breathe deeper, and have an hour of guided stretching that I wouldn’t do otherwise.

Resveralife Mandala Yoga Mat

It sounds really silly, but having a nice looking, good quality yoga mat helps to actually want to go to class or stretch at home. The mandala mat from Resveralife fits the bill. Because yoga hasn’t ever been something I practice regularly, I never invested in a quality yoga mat, so I am excited to have one now. It’s really well made with a beautiful blue microfiber top and non-slip rubber bottom. It does get dirty easily (and attracts all kinds of dog hair, haha), but that’s no problem because this thing is machine washable! What a nice feature. :) This one will run you $50, which I think is perfectly reasonable for its quality and design, especially compared to other mats on the market.

Resveralife Yoga Mat

The mat bag comes separately ($30), but it’s so nice to have. This is another thing I never invested in because I just always carried my mat. It’s funny looking back though, because my mat would always unroll under my arm and I’d think to myself “man, I need to get a mat bag or strap to harness this thing…” The bag matches the mandala pattern on the mat and has a little zip pocket on the outside for holding essentials—handy so you don’t have to carry this AND your purse AND your gym bag. (Anyone else out there a bag lady? * raises hand *)

Resveralife Mandala Mat

So here’s to learning to slow down, moving with intention instead of speed, taking deeper breaths, and calming the body in order to calm the mind. I’m excited to start this new phase of my fitness regimen, and hope you’ll join in if you feel you need to introduce some peace and mindfulness into your life. (Come follow along with me on Instagram!)

Readers: chat with me! Do you MAKE time for calm and relaxation in your day? What does that look like for you? Do you currently diffuse essential oils, practice yoga, and/or purposefully stretch? How have they benefitted you? If not, are they something you want to try? What practices do you have that help you slow down?

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Spotlight On: The ActivMotion Bar (+ discount!)

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Disclosure: While I was not compensated to write this post, I was gifted this bar by Fit Approach on behalf of ActivMotion Bar in exchange for review on the blog. As always, all opinions, photos, and workout images are my own. I hope you guys love this piece of fitness equipment as much as I do!

Alright, let’s first disregard the fact that this is my first blog post in WELL over a year (hello graduate school! - more on that and my life lately in an upcoming post). And let’s focus on new fitness equipment! Have you gotten your Christmas shopping done yet? Do you have your gifts for the fitness fanatic? If you need an idea for them, or for yourself, here’s a great one: The ActivMotion Bar.

ActiveMotion Bar

This LOOKS like your traditional weighted bar similar to a Body Bar, but it is most definitely better. The ActivMotion Bar is hollow and has weighted ball bearings inside that roll around as you shift it. It’s definitely something you have to hear and feel.

The shifting of the ball bearings creates a whole new challenge for, well, all your muscles, but particularly your abs and core. It takes a lot of concentrated effort to keep that bar still! There are SO many exercises you can do with this, the opportunities are endless. And it doesn’t just come in one size either. I’m using the 10-lb bar here, which let me tell you, is a LOT more challenging than I thought it would be. (Haha… #humbled.) The bars also come in weights of 3, 4.5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, and 18lbs. They also have a “glimpse” bar where you can actually see through and watch the balls roll as you move. That one weighs 4.5lb. The lighter ones are good for Pilates and building general strength, coordination, and core activation. The heavier ones are suited more for advanced use, with the 18lb-er being proooooobably for more of your athletes. (I’m not sure I could swing around 18lbs of shifting weight!) So, all that said, there are a variety to choose from and each has its own benefit. I’d be really interested in trying a Pilates class with this!

ActiveMotion Bar

As I hope you know, I only share fitness equipment that I genuinely love and actually use in my own training. Now that I’ve had a chance to play around with this, I’ll be creating an ActivMotion Bar series here on the blog, so stay tuned for some great workouts! In the meantime, here’s an exercise I tried a few nights ago that is way more challenging in practice than it appears: the side plank leg lift. Helloooo outer thighs, obliques, and shoulders! (For a video of this and to HEAR the bar in action, check out my Instagram post… complete with bloopers too!)

Side Plank Leg Lift - Start in a traditional side plank (or bottom leg tucked under for more support). Rest one end of the bar on the top leg in the crook of your ankle, and hold the other end with your top arm (shown below, top). From there, lift your top leg up as high as you can, allowing the ball bearings to roll all the way down (shown below, bottom). Then lower your leg back down, allowing the balls to finish rolling back before lifting again. Try 10 each leg, and let me know how you do!

SidePlankLegLifts

READER DISCOUNT! (Through 1/7)

ActivMotion Bar was kind enough to share a 25% off discount code with you! Use code FITAPPROACH25 now through January 7, 2019 for some savings! The bars are slightly on the pricey side ranging from $99 - $139, so I’m happy to be able to share this discount. Go experience one for yourself! You won’t regret it, especially if you work out at home and/or need to breathe new life into your fitness routine!

And if you need more exercise/workout ideas, check out ActivMotion Bar on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. AWESOME resources for motivation!

Readers: chat with me! Have you used an ActivMotion Bar before? If so, what’d you do with it and how did you like it? If not, are you interested in giving it a try? Have you used any other fitness equipment with shifting mass like this? And lastly, but most importantly, HOW HAVE YOU BEEN??

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