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What Is the Difference Between Weight & Body Composition?

By Gryphon Adams ; Updated July 18, 2017

Body weight and body composition offer an indication of potential health risks. Body weight refers to your total weight, the result you see when you step on an accurate scale. Your ratio of muscle to fat is a key element of body composition and this ratio can change throughout your lifetime.


Waist circumference provides a clue to your amount of body fat. It's possible to be an average weight and yet be considered fat. Weight gain, aging and inactivity can all contribute to increases in body fat. For example, due to age-related muscle loss, a senior may develop a higher percentage of body fat even if she doesn't gain any weight. If you switch from a physically active job to a desk job without increasing exercise to compensate, you'll lose muscle and gain fat. A woman's body fat should be 20 to 21 percent and a man's body fat should be 13 to 17 percent, according to Medline Plus.

Body Composition

Your overall body weight includes all the elements of your body, including bones, blood, organs, muscles and fat. Fat deposits exist as a subcutaneous layer and as abdominal fat. Subcutaneous fat rests under your skin. Abdominal fat develops in the belly area and includes visceral fat, deep fat deposits surrounding your internal organs. Because visceral fat is metabolically active and releases wastes into the body, this kind of fat undermines your health. Visceral fat increases your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Exercise helps reduce abdominal fat.

Weight Maintenance

Balancing calorie intake and physical activity helps you maintain a healthy weight. Multiply your weight by the number of calories per pound recommended for your activity level to determine a guideline for calorie intake, according to Medline Plus. Sedentary or obese individuals should multiply your weight in pounds by 10 calories, low activity or over-55 individuals by 13 calories, moderate activity by 15 calories and regular strenuous activity by 18 calories. For example, if you exercise for 30 minutes on a regular basis, multiply your weight times 15. If you weigh 150, your recommended caloric intake is 2,250.


Strength training helps to improve body composition by building muscle and elevating your metabolism. Lifting weights, doing pool exercises, using exercise bands and performing body weight exercises such as pushups, pullups, squats, lunges, the plank and dips build strength and help to retain lean tissue during weight loss or aging. Body mass index charts provide an estimate of body composition based on height and weight.

Weight-bearing aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, jogging and dancing help you burn calories efficiently to reach or maintain a healthy weight. These exercises also help preserve bone density. Your bones are a key aspect of your body composition. Maintaining strong bones protects you from osteoporosis and fractures.

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