What is a healthy body fat percentage?

Women (% fat):

  • Essential Fat- 10-12%
  • Athletes - 14-20%
  • Fitness - 21-24%
  • Acceptable - 25-31%
  • Obese - 32%+

Men (% fat):

  • Essential Fat - 2-4%
  • Athletes - 6-13%
  • Fitness - 14-17%
  • Acceptable - 18-25%
  • Obese - 25%+
Picture of fat cell and location
Jim White
Nutrition & Dietetics

Body fat percentage is often a more reliable way to determine how healthy an individual is as opposed to actual weight. The following body fat percentage chart is according to the NSCA guidelines.

Classification        Women           Men

Essential              10-12%          2-4%

Athletes               14-20%          6-13%

Fitness                 21-24%         14-17%

Acceptable           25-31%          18-25%

Plus                    32% plus         25% plus

The best ways to measure body fat percentage is through hydrostatic weighing, Dexa Scan or Bod Pod testing. However, a more accessible way to measure body fat percentage can be done through the use of Calipers, which is using skinfold measurements.  

In order to assess what a healthy body fat percentage is, we must understand the difference between essential body fat and storage body fat. Essential fat is what the body needs for survival, and storage fat is what is needed for cushioning of organs and regulating body temperature. Essential fat should be around 3% for men and 12% for women. The rest of the percentage is storage fat. The healthy body fat chart below looks at age and gender.


Ages 20-40 : 21-33%

Ages 41-60 : 23-35%

Ages 61-79 : 24-36%


Ages 20-40 8-19%

Ages 41-60 11-22%

Ages 61-79 13-25%


There are many different body fat percentage tables, suggesting varying ranges for healthy percentages.  The suggestions that follow are based on recommendations by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. 
o Essential fat:      10-13% women      2-5% men
o Athletes:      14-20% women      6-13% men
o Fitness:      21-24% women      14-17% men
o Average:      25-31% women      18-24% men
o Obese:      32%+ women      25%+ men 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.