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What is a BOD POD?

My experience with an Air Displacement Plethysmograph at Well & Being Spa

What is a BOD POD? And how is body composition measured? Read on, and I'll break it down for you.

A few months ago I was fortunate to be able to visit the Well & Being Spa in Scottsdale, AZ. This spa has truly amazing amenities, and a really unique, and vast spa menu. I was intrigued by some treatments and classes that I’d never seen before in my spa travels. Aerial Hammock Yoga, Eucalyptus inhalation room, and Alpine Arnica Deep Tissue Massage anyone!? I think I spent half of an entire day circulating through the therapeutic whirlpool, Swiss shower, and grotto waterfall until I was so relaxed and delirious I had to stumble back to my room for room service.

Not only was I able to meet the awesome spa manager and chat with him about Spatracker, but he also gave me a tour of the entire facility. I enjoyed a Float-fit water fitness class, a head and neck massage, and the Bod Pod body composition assessment while visiting. But the Bod Pod assessment was a real standout service for me.

The Bodpod test was so cool that it inspired me to look into body composition measurement and write a thorough review to share with you. The experience also motivated me to focus more on body composition, versus measuring pounds on the scale, inches, and my longtime favorite; the how-well-do-my-jeans-fit method (facepalm).

If you’ve ever wondered what the many different methods of body composition analysis are, why and where to get them done, and what the heck a bod pod is, I’m going to break it all down for you. You’ll thank me later when you find one and get your own assessment.

What is Body Composition?

Body composition is the proportion of fat and fat-free mass in your body. Healthy body composition consists of a lower percentage of body fat and higher fat-free mass (this includes muscle, bones, and organs). Body fat can be found in muscle tissue, under the skin (subcutaneous fat), or around organs (visceral fat). Some fat is necessary for us – that is called essential fat – it helps protect internal organs, stores fuel for energy, and regulates important hormones. But you may also have excess storage of fat and non-essential body fat. Fat-free mass includes bone, water, muscle, organs, and tissues, or lean tissue. These tissues are metabolically active, burning calories for energy, while body fat is not. Body fat percent is a measurement of body composition telling how much of the weight of your body is fat. The percentage of your body that is not fat is fat-free mass. There are normal ranges for body fat, which differ for men and women.

Why Test Body Composition? 

Weighing yourself on a scale doesn’t accurately assess your body composition because a regular scale cannot tell how much of your total weight is comprised of water, fat, or muscle. Body composition is measured to assess your health and fitness level. Often, you will have body composition measured at the start of a weight-loss or fitness program and checked periodically to monitor progress. Body composition testing is increasing in popularity with advances in science and technology, and are quick to perform providing in-depth results about muscle mass, body fat mass, body fat percentage, bone density, and more.

What are the Methods of Testing Body Composition?

There are a number of different testing methods that are used to determine body composition. Different techniques used to analyze the body fat include dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, magnetic resonance imaging, computerized tomography, and air displacement plethysmography. Ultrasound technique can also be used for accurate assessment of body fat and is less expensive than other laboratory methods. 

These include the following, and vary greatly in accuracy and ease of testing: 

  • Calipers (Skin Fold Analysis)
  • Bioelectrical impedance 
  • Computed Tomography and Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry
  • Hydrodensitometry (commonly called “underwater weighing”)
  • Bod Pod / Air-Displacement Plethysmography
  • DEXA (Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry)
What is a Bod Pod

What is the Bod Pod?

The BOD POD is an Air Displacement Plethysmograph (ADP) that uses whole-body densitometry to determine body composition (fat vs. lean). Similar in principle to underwater weighing, the BOD POD measures body mass (weight) using a very precise scale, and volume by sitting inside the BOD POD. Body density can then be calculated: Density = Mass/Volume.

Once the overall density of the body is determined, the relative proportions of body fat and lean body mass are calculated. The BOD POD differs from underwater weighing in that the BOD POD uses air instead of water to measure body volume, based on the physical relationship between pressure and volume. This relationship allows for the derivation of an unknown volume by directly measuring pressure. During a measurement, the BOD POD produces very small volume changes inside the chamber and measures the pressure response to these small volume changes. To accomplish this, the interior volume of the empty BOD POD chamber is first determined, then the volume when the subject is seated inside the BOD POD is also determined. By subtraction, the subject’s volume is obtained. For example, if the interior air volume of the empty chamber is 400 liters, the volume of the chamber is reduced to 350 liters with the subject inside, then the body volume of the subject is 50 liters.

What is the Difference Between Bod Pod vs DEXA?

Although the DEXA and Bod Pod are believed to be some of the most accurate methods of measurement, there are many distinct differences and opinions on reliability. If you’re interested in a thorough evaluation you can find that here in this article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4301864/

What to Expect with a Bod Pod Test? 

You will sit comfortably and silently (no laughing, talking, selfies or facebook stalking) inside the chamber while you try to breathe normally. Sounds relating to the valves opening and closing are heard, but most are unaware of the slight pressure changes that take place.  Click here to watch a video of the test. The chamber is neither roomy nor cramped, but if you get claustrophobic it may not be for you. I’d discuss this with the technician before getting inside and closing the door. Although I am not prone to claustrophobia I felt a little nervous when the door sealed and felt my heart rate increase. Other than that you just sit there for a few minutes and its over! No biggie. 

You will be sitting inside the chamber for about 3 minutes. However, during that time, the door will be opened and closed between two 50-second trials. Total time including goal setting and reviewing the results is approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

How accurate is Bod Pod?

The Bod Pod which uses air displacement technology is considered to be the gold standard of body composition measurement. It is as accurate as hydrostatic (underwater) weighing, but quicker and easier to perform. The range of error for this test is ± 1 to 2.7%.

In order to have the best possible results, the manufacturer recommends the following:

  • No food, drink or exercise at least 3 hours prior to testing.
  • Use the restroom before testing, if necessary.
  • Don’t apply any lotions or skin creams prior to your test.
  • Remove glasses and jewelry (if possible).
  • Wear minimal, form-fitting clothing.
    • Men: Thin fabric shorts, lycra/spandex-type swimsuit or single-layer compression bike-style shorts (no padding
    • Women: Lycra/spandex-type swimsuit or bike-style shorts and sports bra (no wire or padding)
  • Because of the sensitivity of the equipment, schedule subsequent visits under the same conditions (time of day, hydration levels, amount of facial and body hair, same day of cycle (women), etc.).
  • A swim cap will be provided to compress any air pockets within the hair.

Where to get a bod pod test?

If you’re in the Scottsdale area you should definitely check out the Well & Being Spa and try the Bod Pod. If you live elsewhere, like me, the manufacturer has this handy tool on their site to find a test. Also, you can just google “bod pod near me” and will likely find facilities that offer it. https://www.cosmed.com/en/contact-us/test-site-locator

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