FatTrack Digital Body-Fat Caliper

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Whether you want to lose weight for health reasons or trying to get in better athletic shape by losing body fat, getting a good idea of your progress can help. But going to a gym, hiring a physiologist, or paying for a doctor or lab test just isn't always feasible or affordable. And a lot of alleged body-fat measurement systems and formulas aren't that accurate.

The FatTrack Digital Body-Fat Caliper is a simple device that can give a good ballpark of your status and progress without a lot of time or money, once you've learned how to use it properly and read up a bit on how to best do measurements.

It looks a bit like a lobster claw. Hold it between your fingers in one hand and pinch down on the three measurement sites on your body to get an estimated overall body-fat percentage. You can also see what your rating in millimeters is per site in a small window, and the palm-sized unit also gives you a fitness rating based on the age and gender you input combined with your body-fat reading. It can store three profiles so it can be shared easily in one household. A report function also tells you your reading and compares it to your most recent one as well as tells you your maximum and minimum accomplished for each of three sites – sort of like a little nag: Oops, gained a little in the mid-section. Woo-hoo, lost a little on the legs.

What to remember is that this takes a bit of practice – plan on running through it a half-dozen times to get a good feel for how to do it since readings will vary if they aren't done the same way with the same pressure each time. And doing the measurements on yourself can be a bit tricky.

Also, take note that a few packages in an older run were mistakenly not packed with the truly vital booklet called "Improving Your Measuring Skill" that is referred to in the tiny getting-started guide. If perchance you get one that did not have this, go to the website and print out the PDF version since it diagrams where the three measurement sites are and explains succinctly how to pinch the fat AND helps you interpret what the readings mean. The tiny fold-out guide that comes with the package only tells you how to use the device and just names sites with some rather technical names. For example, one of our testers when told to pinch a "tricep" (back of upper arm) went instead for a place more to the side and not the backside of the arm. And another pinch site is explained as the "waist (suprailiac)," which would leave most folks pretty puzzled.

In addition, although the small how-to guide says to put your thumb on the blue button that triggers the reading, you can't really do that until you have the calipers in place and pinched down to the right width. Otherwise, the unit beeps and tells you you're done before you began to pinch, leading to inaccuracy. Just put your thumb behind the button and let it roll forward gently onto the button when the caliper is in place.

No, these readings won't be lab-accurate. For that, you'd need to go get dunked in an underwater tank or do some other expensive testing. But with practice and consistent use it can give you a great idea of your general progress and whether you are generally losing or gaining.

The FatTrack package also comes with a nifty measuring tape called a Myotape that retracts into a small case and loops around you simply, allowing anyone to take accurate measurements on his or her own body -- waist, thighs, arms, head, etc. -- without requiring three hands and creative gyrations to hold a tape in place.

SNEWS® Applause Meter: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)

Suggested Retail: $50 for both the FatTrack and Myotape

For more information:www.accufitness.com or 1-800-866-2727

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