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J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2016 Apr;56(4):443-9. Epub 2015 Apr 30.

Accuracy of self-perception and Body Mass Index compared to actual body fat percentage in athletes and non-athletes.

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Department of Health and Wellness, University of North Carolina-Asheville, Asheville, NC, USA -



The purpose of this study was to examine the accuracy of self-reported weight status compared to weight status based on actual body fat percentage in athletes and non-athletes.


Adult athletes (N.=76; 43 female and 33 male) and non-athletes (N.=80; 43 female and 37 male) participated in this cross-sectional study. Participants were asked to identify their perceived weight status. Height and weight were measured, and BMI was calculated. Body fat percentage was assessed using BOD POD. Cross-tabs analyses were used to determine agreement between perceived weight status, weight status based on body fat percentage, and weight status based on BMI.


Overall, agreement between perceived weight status and actual weight status based on body fat percentage was fair. Of the 43 overweight/obese participants, 42% under-estimated weight status, thinking they were normal weight. Of the 114 normal weight participants, 6% over-estimated their weight status, thinking they were overweight. Although there were lower rates of overweight/obesity among athletes, 50% of overweight/obese athletes thought they were normal weight, while 39% of overweight/obese non-athletes thought they were normal weight. None of the normal weight athletes (N.=56) over-estimated their weight status. In contrast, 20% of male non-athletes, and 9% of female non-athletes who were normal weight thought they were overweight.


Similar to trends observed in recent studies, results from the current study indicate that a high proportion of overweight/obese adults underestimate their weight status, and athletes may not be immune to this trend. Reasons as to why this phenomenon may be occurring and future directions are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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