What is a healthy body fat percentage?

While excess body fat can be detrimental to health, there is a minimum level of body fat needed (called essential fat) to maintain healthy bodily function.
Men and women have different needs for body fat to be healthy. For a healthy body, women need a higher body fat percentage than men to support additional hormone and reproductive functions.
In general, healthy body fat percentage ranges to reduce the health risks associated with being under-fat or overfat are 21–31% for women and 14–24% for men.
Age Classification Women (% fat) Men (% fat)
Essential fat 10-13% 2-5%
Athletes 14-20% 6-13%
Fitness 21-24% 14-17%
Average 25-31% 18-24%
Obese 32% and higher 25% and higher

Furthermore, body fat percentage tends to increase with age so it is best to refer to age and gender reference ranges to establish what your healthy range is.


Age Classification 20-39 40-59 60-79
Severe underfat <14% <14% <14%
Underfat <21% <23% <24%
Healthy 21-33% 23-35% 24-36%
Overfat 33-39% 35-40% 36-42%
Obese >39% >40% >42%


Age Classification 20-39 40-59 60-79
Severe underfat <5% <5% <5%
Underfat <8% <11% <13%
Healthy 8-20% 11-22% 13-25%
Overfat 20-25% 22-28% 25-30%
Obese >25% >28% >30%

Ultimately, body fat percentage should be combined with other body composition metrics to best understand your health risks.

How to safely decrease body fat percentage

Researchers and practitioners mostly agree that a 1% loss per month is generally safe and maintainable.

Ways to safely decrease body fat percentage include avoiding sugars and trans fats, reducing inflammation, getting enough sleep, exercising appropriately (cardio and resistance training), and reducing your mental stress.

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