Weighing yourself used to be straightforward – step on the scales and a number would state you had either lost or gained. But bathroom scales have come a long way since then.
Rather than simply telling you how much you weigh, even fairly cheap devices can now tell you exactly what your body is made of. In fact, composition analysis can now track everything from body fat and muscle mass to Body Mass Index (BMI), bone density and hydration level.
Knowing exactly how much of your body is made up of fat can tell you whether you’re achieving your health goals and alert you to potential health issues, such as being overweight, underweight, dehydrated or over-hydrated. Connect a smartphone or tablet and send readings wirelessly to an app – great for tracking progress over time and to make sure the lifestyle changes you’ve made are working.
Read on to find out how smart bathroom scales can help improve your overall health, and browse our list of the best bathroom scales for models that really pull their weight.
1. Find out your body fat percentage
Have you ever stepped on the scales after spending weeks on a health kick, only to find that your weight has barely changed? Traditional bathroom scales will tell you whether you’ve gained or lost weight but they won’t tell you whether you’ve gained or lost body fat or muscle.
A smart bathroom scale can tell you exactly how much of your body is made up of fat, including visceral fat – the deep abdominal fat that surrounds your organs. Visceral fat isn’t visible so even the thinnest people can have dangerous levels of it. Take a look at the smart bathroom scales that can measure visceral fat – only two performed well enough to become Best Buys.
If you have too much or too little body fat, you can modify your diet and lifestyle accordingly. Tracking your body composition over time can also let you know whether any lifestyle changes you’ve made, such as taking up running or changing your diet, have actually worked.
The problem with BMI
Most of us have also heard of measuring your Body Mass Index (BMI) to determine whether you’re overweight. However, BMI fails to differentiate between body fat, muscle mass and bone density. So a body builder could have the same BMI as a sumo wrestler – both could be classed as ‘overweight’ even though the body builder is mostly made up of muscle while the sumo wrestler has more body fat. We’ve tested bathroom scales that can measure muscle mass to find out which are most effective.
2. Set an accurate, realistic calorie limit
Some smart bathroom scales can tell you how many calories your body needs every day just to stay alive. This is known as your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is based on the amount of calories your body would need if it was resting for 24 hours and only needed to support vital functions, such as breathing, digesting food and pumping blood around your body.
As we age, our metabolic rate changes. After the age of 16 or 17, it typically starts to decrease. A low BMR means your body needs fewer calories, so to lose weight you would need to consume less. With a smart bathroom scale, you can calculate your metabolic age by comparing your BMR to the average BMR of your age group.
If your metabolic age is higher than your actual age, it’s a sign that you should improve your BMR by exercising more to gain more muscle mass. Increasing your muscle mass helps your BMR, meaning that the number of calories you burn increases. This in turn decreases your body fat percentage.
Determining your BMR allows you to monitor how many calories you need a day to maintain or lose weight. Bathroom scales that scan your whole body and measure your body composition are far more accurate than generic average male/female/age statistics used by online calculators. These scales are used and trusted by doctors and experts worldwide and you could have them in the comfort of your own bathroom.
We’ve looked at a range of bathroom scales that measure BMR to see how they fare.
3. Find out whether you’re dehydrated, or over-hydrated
Do you ever go through random periods of having headaches, feeling unusually tired, feeling lightheaded or having a dry mouth, lips or eyes? According to the NHS, these are all signs of dehydration, which can be caused by forgetting to drink enough or not realising you’re thirsty, which is common in children and older adults. Other symptoms include passing urine less than four times a day and having dark coloured, strong-smelling urine.
You can also be too hydrated, meaning your body is holding on to more water than your kidneys can remove. WedMD states the symptoms look similar to that of heatstroke or exhaustion. Other signs of over-hydration include nausea, headaches, diarrhea and changes in mental state such as confusion or disorientation. Untreated over-hydration can cause dangerously low levels of sodium in your blood, leading to severe symptoms such as seizures, unconsciousness or muscle weakness, spasms, and cramps.
Our water needs vary and fluctuate depending on age, the weather, our activity levels and overall health. So, even though there are recommended guidelines, there’s no exact formula on how much each individual should drink. Smart bathroom scales measure your total body water, which is useful for transporting waste, helping organs to function, regulating body temperature and digestion. These smart devices can save you a trip to the doctor by telling you how hydrated your body is.
Read our reviews on bathroom scales that measure body water percentage to get the best model for you.
For more about body composition, read our in-depth guide to body composition explained.