How accurate are skinfolds

Skinfolds are sometimes criticized for being inaccurate (especially by the makers of other fat testing devices). Compared to complicated measures such as underwater weighing, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), skinfolds may seem too simplistic to be accurate.

Skinfold testing does require a lot of practice. The greatest errors are human errors from not pinching at the right spot or taking the skinfold with improper technique

(for example, taking a horizontal fold when it should be a vertical fold.) The skinfold test is only as accurate as the person doing it.

Dan Duchaine, author of "Body Opus," once wrote, "I don't know why calipers are so accurate. Although you can find more glamorous contraptions, a skilled 'pincher' can get a better estimate than with any other method except dissection. The only drawback to using calipers is operator error; but practice does make perfect."

When performed correctly by a skilled test administrator, skinfold tests are almost as accurate as any other method for testing individuals in the range of 15-35% body fat. For individuals over 35% body fat, the accuracy of skinfolds does decrease somewhat, and for lean individuals, skinfolds might be the most accurate method of all.

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