Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis - Boise State University Access Only



Major Advisor

Dr. Lynda Ransdell


The purpose of this study was to compare four measures of body composition in older adults. Ten male and nine female healthy older adults (age 65-85 years) from the university’s exercise and weight training program and the YMCA (Downtown, Boise) participated in the present study. Participants completed four tests of body composition to assess percent body fat (in order: Skinfolds, Bioelectrical Impedance, Air Displacement Plethysmography or Bod-Pod, and Hydrostatic Weighing). It was hypothesized that all techniques would be positively and significantly correlated with the ‘gold standard’ technique of hydrostatic weighing. Pearson product moment correlation coefficients were used to compare these measures of body composition and reliability of the correlation coefficients was established. Positive, significant, and reliable (p<0.05) correlations were found between hydrostatic weighing (HW) and the other three methods when males and females were combined (r = 0.55 to 0.74). When grouped by gender, positive, significant, and reliable (p<0.05) correlations for males were found between hydrostatic weighing (HW) and air displacement plethysmography (ADP) (r = 0.93) and between HW and skinfolds (SKF) (r = 0.75). For females, there were no significant or reliable (p<0.05) correlations found between HW and any of the three other tests.

Findings from this study indicate that ADP and SKF can be recommended as reliable alternatives to HW in older males but not in older females. Since there were no significant correlations between HW and any of the alternative tests (SKF, BIA, and ADP) in females, no technique can be recommended as an alternative to HW in females. Further studies are needed to evaluate the findings of this study in a larger sample and across a wider range of age and racial groups. This study expands our knowledge regarding the use of body composition assessment techniques in older adults and it may enable professionals to make more informed choices regarding the use of body composition assessment techniques in older adults.


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