Janet Kupperman, FACSM

Rockhurst University, Kansas City, Missouri

The measurement of body composition is integral to assessing fitness and included in professional competencies outlined by the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Thus, it is incumbent on faculty/programs in exercise science to provide students with experiences to promote the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to assess body composition. While it is customary to include content knowledge and some skills practice in courses like Physiology of Exercise, reflection on dispositions may occur less frequently. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to address dispositions while reviewing skills for assessing girths and skinfolds. Specifically, students explored the consequences of using techniques for measuring girths and skinfolds that do not comply with approved methods (e.g., measuring over clothing and subtracting the estimated thickness of the clothing and altered limb positioning). METHODS: Students reviewed techniques for assessing height, weight, circumferences, and skinfolds that they had previously practiced in other courses and also discussed techniques to promote subject comfort and measurement accuracy. After measuring girths and skinfolds using techniques consistent with those illustrated in their text book, students used specified non-conforming techniques for chest, waist, hip, and thigh girths and for chest, thigh, abdomen, triceps, suprailium, and subscapula skinfolds. They reflected on differences in laboratory reports and discussed professional options for dealing with situations in student and employee roles during which they could feel pressured to use methods that do not conform with best practices. RESULTS: Twenty-six students gave informed consent for their data to be included in the analysis. Difference scores (approved minus non-conforming) were calculated for girths, skinfolds, body density, and percent fat. 71.9% of the difference scores were lower for unapproved techniques and 25.3% were higher. Mean girth difference was 0.4 ± 1.08 inches. Mean skinfold difference was -1.63 ± 4.83 mm. CONCLUSION: The activity provided students with a concrete understanding of the importance of using measurement techniques associated with best practices. Additionally, their awareness of challenges they may experience in the field was enhanced. A deliberate incorporation of dispositions as well as content knowledge and skills is suggested for classroom activities.

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