How we test body fat scales

Our rigorous testing of body fat scales in the CHOICE labs means you can be confident you're making the right decision in store. Here's how we do it.

Can you even weigh?

We test body fat scales every few years. Most people buying one are probably doing so for the first time. They seem to provide a simple function: weigh, and deliver the percentage of body fat. But then, most things seem simple when viewed from a distance.

What happens inside your scale when you step on one? What else can they do besides measure your body fat and weight?

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When you start to look closely at body fat scales, they really are about keeping us aware of our healthy body weight. While not a fun experience, they add to our tool set for monitoring our bodies and the amount of foods we consume and exercise we do. We test rigorously to make sure that body fat scales do well in the primary aspect of their performance.

Our expert testers

With more than 30 years combined experience in our laboratory, we are proud of our expert testers. They've seen all types of features and scales come through the labs, but one thing never changes – the scales need to deliver an accurate percentage! We test many elements of a scale, but our focus on these basics means that when it's time to buy, you can be sure the scale you bring home does its job well.

How we choose what we test

Why do we choose one scale over another to test? There are a number of reasons, but our priority is to test what you'll see in the stores. That means we might not cover that one brand that has one model that's sold 100 samples in Australia, and instead focus on the big brand models so you can at least see the scale before you buy it to make sure you're happy with it.

How do we know what's in retailers? We check current market figures to see what's selling well – typically this means Beurer, Sanitas, Soehnle and Tanita. We'll also include models that you've requested – if a lot of members want it, we're going to test it.

When we know what you want, our buyers go out and use your member fees to buy the scales from a variety of retailers, then bring them in as is – this means we get what you get so we can be sure the results are what you'll find rather than potentially 'tweaked'.

How often we test

Scales are tested only periodically at CHOICE, because they don't experience a lot of turnover in the market. We tend to test every two years or so, and do these in batches of 12 to 14 scales at a time. We're always looking for ways to improve testing and we survey our members to find out what's important to them on a regular basis. Unsurprisingly, most people just want them to deliver accurate body fat results.

How we test

Setting up scales for testing requires a baseline that we can measure against. As there is no Standard for these particular devices, we used to use the underwater weighing process, which was the gold standard for weighing. These days, the gold standard has changed to the DEXA scan, or dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. This simple three-minute scan measures muscle mass, fat mass and bone mineral density, and doesn't require our test volunteers getting submerged in a tank of water.

Test criteria explained

Body fat accuracy score (40%)

We employed a company to take DEXA scans of our 15 CHOICE volunteers (eight males and seven females). The  scan measures a swathe of body composition details, ranging from body fat to bone density. We then measure each triallist on each of the body fat scales and compare the results.

Weight accuracy score (20%)

Our tester records how accurately the scales measure weight, using calibrated 10kg and 100kg weights. These measurements are combined with the weight measurements from the laboratory test to determine overall weight accuracy.

Weight sensitivity score (10%)

Starting from a weight of 20kg, we measure how sensitive the scales are in incremental changes of 100g.

Ease of use score (30%)

Our CHOICE tester assesses the ease of reading the display, programming user data into the scales, subsequent use (measuring body fat and weight) and foot placement/stability.

Our test lab

We maintain a lab that's up to date with the latest reference machines and calibrated measurement tools to bring you results you can count on.

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