Human body surface area: a theoretical approach

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2004 Apr;91(4):425-8. doi: 10.1007/s00421-003-1011-3. Epub 2003 Nov 22.


Knowledge of the human body surface area has important applications in medical practice, garment design, and other engineering sizing. Therefore, it is not surprising that several expressions correlating body surface area with direct measurements of body mass and length have been reported in the literature. In the present study, based on the assumption that the exterior shape of the human body is the result of convex and concave deformations from a basic cylinder, we derive a theoretical equation minimizing body surface area (BSA) at a fixed volume (V): BSA=(9pi VL)(0.5), where L is the reference length of the body. Assuming a body density value of 1,000 kg.m(-3), the equation becomes BSA=(BM.BH/35.37)(0.5), where BSA is in square meters, BM is the body mass in kilograms, and BH is the body height in meters. BSA values calculated by means of this equation fall within +/-7% of the values obtained by means of the equations available in the literature, in the range of BSA from children to adults. It is also suggested that the above equation, which is obtained by minimizing the outer body surface at a fixed volume, implies a fundamental relation set by the geometrical constraints governing the growth and the development of the human body.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Algorithms*
  • Animals
  • Anthropometry / methods*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Body Surface Area*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Models, Statistical
  • Statistics as Topic