Sedentarism affects body fat mass index and fat-free mass index in adults aged 18 to 98 years

Nutrition. 2004 Mar;20(3):255-60. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2003.11.019.


Objective: Body mass index does not discriminate body fat from fat-free mass or determine changes in these parameters with physical activity and aging. Body fat mass index (BFMI) and fat-free mass index (FFMI) permit comparisons of subjects with different heights. This study evaluated differences in body mass index, BFMI, and FFMI in physically active and sedentary subjects younger and older than 60 y and determined the association between physical activity, age, and body composition parameters in a healthy white population between ages 18 and 98 y.

Methods: Body fat and fat-free mass were determined in healthy white men (n = 3549) and women (n = 3184), between ages 18 and 98 y, by bioelectrical impedance analysis. BFMI and FFMI (kg/m2) were calculated. Physical activity was defined as at least 3 h/wk of endurance-type activity for at least 2 mo.

Results: Physically active as opposed to sedentary subjects were more likely to have a low BFMI (men: odds ratio [OR], 1.4; confidence interval [CI], 0.7-2.5; women: OR 1.9, CI 1.6-2.2) and less likely to have very high BFMI (men: OR, 0.2; CI, 0.1-0.2; women: OR, 0.1; CI, 0.02-0.2), low FFMI (men: OR, 0.5; CI, 0.3-0.9; women: OR, 0.7; CI, 0.6-0.9), or very high FFMI (men: OR, 0.6; CI, 0.4-0.8; women: OR, 0.7; CI, 0.5-1.0). Compared with subjects younger than 60 y, those older than 60 y were more like to have very high BFMI (men: OR, 6.5; CI, 4.5-9.3; women: OR, 14.0; CI, 9.6-20.5), and women 60 y and older were less likely to have a low BFMI (OR, 0.4; CI, 0.2-0.5).

Conclusions: A clear association was found between low physical activity or age and height-normalized body composition parameters (BFMI and FFMI) derived from bioelectrical impedance analysis. Physically active subjects were more likely to have high or very high or low FFMI. Older subjects had higher body weights and BFMI.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / physiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Body Weight
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Electric Impedance
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Sex Factors