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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30-Minute Total Body Workout w/ Walking Poles (+ GIVEAWAY!)

30-Minute Total Body Workout w/ BungyPump Walking Poles

I'm super excited to bring you today's workout!  When BungyPump reached out to me to review their suspension walking poles, my immediate reaction was yes absolutely because they're so different than any piece of exercise equipment I've ever used.  Of course, they're supposed to be used to add more resistance (and therefore more muscle activation and calorie burn) during walking activities, but I found myself immediately coming up with ways to incorporate them into a workout.  So, below is a total body circuit routine with a few bouts of cardio mixed in.  AND you guys have a chance to win a pair of BungyPump Walking Poles for yourself!

First, here's a bit more about them. BungyPump walking poles are Swedish-made with a built-in suspension system that will add 4, 6, or 10 kilos of resistance (9, 13, and 22 pounds respectively) to your walking routine.  They have an ergonomically shaped handle with a hand strap for security, and the height of the poles is adjustable to suit your needs.  You can also adjust whether or not the poles are locked, meaning they can be used sans resistance if you prefer.

BungyPump Walking Poles

The workout I created with these poles is pretty versatile, so if you find yourself out on a walk and want to add some more activity, you absolutely can.  Take the exercises individually as they are, or do the full workout in its entirety for a great calorie burn and total body sweat sesh.  Keep reading for the details of the workout and make sure to enter the raffle to win a pair!

30-Minute Total Body Workout w/ Walking Poles

30-Minute Total Body Workout w/ BungyPump Walking Poles

What You'll Need: a pair of BungyPump Walking poles (WIN A PAIR below!) and an exercise mat.
What You'll Do: go through each round 3 times, doing each exercise for 1 minute, focusing on one major muscle group per round.

Round 1: Legs (x 3)

Cardio: Jump Squats - start standing with the poles vertical in each hand, no resistance put on the poles yet.  Squat down as low as you can, and then explode up into a vertical jump, pressing the poles down as you propel yourself up into the air.  Land back down softly, letting the poles release back to starting position.  Repeat the jump squats quickly for 1 minute.

Curtsey Lunge Pulses + Hold (each side) - start in the same standing position you were in for the jump squats, holding a pole in each hand.  Step back into a curtsey lunge on your right side (by taking your left foot and stepping behind and to the right).  Maintaining the lunge position with the poles pressed down, pulse the lunge with little movements up and down for 30 seconds, letting the poles move up and down with you.  After those 30 seconds are up, stay down in a low lunge for the next 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Squat Hold (30s back/30s front) - start in a low squat position with one of the poles placed behind your knees.  Squat down just low enough to hold the pole in place (but be careful to not go so low that you're resting on your heels).  Hold that position with your hands outstretched for 30 seconds.  Then, maintaining the squat position, grab the pole and hold it out in front of you for the next 30 seconds.

- Repeat round 1 two more times - 

Round 2: Arms (x 3)

Cardio: Plank Jack to Frog Hop - lay the poles down parallel to each other on the floor and start in a plank position with your hands at the top of the poles and feet on in the inside (see image). From here, jump your feet to the outside of the poles (plank jack), then jump them up to your hands (frog hop), keeping your hands planted the whole time.  Reverse the move to jump your feet back to the outside of the poles, and then back in. Continue the pattern quickly for 1 minute, keeping your abs engaged and shoulders in line over your wrists.

Walking Push Ups - keep the poles in the same parallel position as the cardio move above.  Start in a push up position on the left-most side of the poles.  Do 1 push up.  Now step your right hand and right foot to the right, over the first pole to the inside "lane" (left side follows so you're now in a push up position on the inside of the poles).  Do another push up.  Then continue to walk yourself over to the right-most side of the poles and do another push up here.  Reverse the move to walk back over to the left, stopping to do 1 push up in each "lane".  Continue the pattern for 1 minute.

Chest Squeeze + Pulse + Hold (10/10/10 x 2) - start standing with one pole held parallel to the floor, palms facing up toward the ceiling, hands at the ends of the pole.  Using the resistance of the pole, slowly press inward keeping your arms straight.  Once pressed in as far as you can, slowly release the pole back to starting position.  Do 10 slow presses, then hold the pole in and do 10 slow pulses (tiny presses).  Once 10 pulses are done, press the pole in as far as you can again and hold that position for 10 seconds.  Do this twice through.

- Repeat round 2 two more times -

Round 3: Abs (x 3)

Cardio: Lateral Bounding Hops - lay the poles down end to end to form a line on the floor. Starting at one end of the line on one side, swing your arms down by your sides, bend your knees and jump over to the other side, trying to cover as much distance as you can.  Land softly and immediately load the next jump, then hop over to the other side of the line.  Continue the bounding hops down and back for 1 minute.

V-ups w/ Chest Squeeze - start laying down on your back, holding one pole in your hands overhead, pole relaxed with an overhand grip.  From here, do a V-up by engaging your abs to bring your legs and upper body off the floor while simultaneously bringing the pole up overhead to reach out in front of you, squeezing your hands together as you raise.  Reverse the move, lowering your body back down to the floor and releasing tension on the pole as you lower.  Keep going for 1 minute.

Raised Leg Wall Sit - alright, fair warning: these ones are HARD.  I don't expect you to hold this position for the full minute, so do what you can, take breaks, and get back into it when you're ready.  Start in a seated position, lower and middle back flat against a wall, legs bent with heels touching the floor.  Your feet are flexed, balancing one pole on top of your ankles (see picture). Place your hands on the ground between your legs and press.  Lift your legs up off the floor as high as you can, engaging your abs to do so.  Hold that position for as long as you can, taking breaks when you need to.  Keep going for 1 minute.

- Repeat round 3 two more times - 

And now for the fun part...

WIN A PAIR of BungyPump Walking Poles!

BungyPump Walking Poles Giveaway!

That's right!  You can win a pair for yourself!  The poles themselves range in price depending on the resistance you choose, but the ones seen here (the Walkathlon line) are priced at $135, so I'm excited to be able to offer a pair for free to a lucky reader!  This is a raffle-style giveaway (entry options are below), and the winner will be announced May 17th!  Good luck to you all and I hope you enjoy the workout!

[Update] 15% off BungyPump Poles with code INFITINHEALTH

The giveaway might be over (congratulations to Sonya!), but I'm not leaving you guys empty handed.  Use code INFITINHEALTH to get 15% off ANY BungyPump pole set!  Click here to check out the different styles, and make sure to check back in and let me know how you like them!

Readers: chat with me!  Do you do a lot of active/outdoor walking?  Do you use walking poles?  Have you ever "thought outside the box" when it comes to exercise equipment (if so, what have you used)?  What exercises would you do with the poles if you won them?