Healthy Range of Body Fat

For the average adult the healthy range of body fat is shown below. The ranges are different for men and women depending on their age.

Healthy Range of Body Fat

Age Female Male
18-39 21-32% 8-19%
40-59 23-33% 11-21%
60-79 24-35% 13-24%

Professional and superior amateur athletes often have a body fat percentage much lower than the average person. For example, male marathon runners have been found to have body fat as low as 3.3% and female Olympic swimmers have been found to have body fat as low as 14.5%.

What happens when your percent body fat goes above the desirable range? Your risk for developing heart disease, high blood pressure, gallstones, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, certain cancers and for an early death increases. In some cases, the excess fat becomes a mechanical barrier to breathing properly. This condition is called sleep apnea.

Where your excess fat is located is even more important than the amount of body fat you have. Recent studies have shown that if you carry your extra fat around your waist, you are at a higher risk for developing the diseases mentioned above than if you carry the same amount of extra fat around your thighs and buttocks.