Relative body fat and anthropometric prediction of body density of female athletes

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Ninety-one percent (n=182) of the female members of South Australian representative squads in 14 sports volunteered to act as subjects. Twenty-seven percent of them had represented Australia. The underwater weighing method together with the measurement of residual volume (RV) by helium dilution were used to determine body density (BD); the percent body fat (% BF) was then computed according to Siri.

A stepwise multiple regression analysis yielded a correlation coefficient (R) of 0.863 between the criterion (BD) and the best weighted sum of predictors (anthropometric variables): BD (g·cm−3)=1.14075−0.04959 (log10 ∑ triceps, subscapular, supraspinale and calf skinfolds in mm)+0.00044 (age in decimal years)−0.000612 (waist girth in cm)+0.000284 (height in cm)−0.000505 (gluteal girth in cm)+0.000331 (breast girth in cm).

Only those predictors which resulted in a statistically significant increase inR (p⩽0.05) were included. The standard error of estimate of 0.00597 g · cm−3 was equivalent to 2.7% BF at the mean. This equation was shown to be largely population specific. There was a range of 7.6–35.8% of BF and the overall mean of 18.5% was significantly lower (p<0.001) than that of 23.4% obtained on a moderately active reference sample of similar age (n=135). If group sizes of only one or two are regarded as too small for meaningful comparison, then the lowest mean of 13.5% was achieved by the long-distance runners (n=14). The highest averages were registered by the heavyweight rowers (24.2%;n=7) and soccer players (22.0%;n=11). The overall average for games players (n=107) was 19.4%.

This study was supported by a grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia