Ah, the scale….loved by some, loathed by others. Whether you love it or hate it, it’s arguably one of the most commonly used tools for measuring progress during a fitness journey. But what does the scale really tell us? And more importantly, how much emphasis should we put on that number?

What the Scale DOES Tell Us

To answer that first question, the scale tells us how much we weigh at that given moment. While the number may differ slightly from scale to scale, it’s usually an accurate reflection of your total body weight at that time. The key words here are “at that time”. Your weight is going to fluctuate depending on a number of factors; time of day, how much clothing you’re wearing, your body’s water content, and your salt intake are just a few examples of what will cause fluctuations.

What the Scale DOESN’T Tell Us

Here’s what your standard bathroom scale won’t tell you: how much of your total body weight is fat. And this is an important figure because fat is what we all really want to reduce, right? To calculate body fat percentage, you need a different kind of tool, such as body fat calipers or a specialized scale that measures body fat. However, we are talking about a regular, run-of-the-mill scale here, which most definitely cannot calculate this information. And it’s this inability to measure ALL of the factors that go into body weight that brings the validity of the standard scale into question as an accurate measurement tool for fitness. Combine that with the factors mentioned above that can alter your weight from day to day, and the scale loses some of its appeal as a useful tool on your health journey.

What Does This Mean in Terms of Fitness?scale-403585_640

With all this in mind, what does the scale have to with a person’s level of fitness? In short, nothing. A standard scale does not deliver an accurate representation of a person’s fitness, because it doesn’t assess all the necessary criteria. If you’re truly interested in measuring your fitness, you’re going to need more. Body fat calipers, measuring tape, and other tools that take into account factors other than body weight can give you much more accurate analyses of your overall fitness level.

The Bottom Line

So, does this mean you should never weigh yourself ever again? Probably not. The scale is not without merit. Your body weight is an essential component of overall fitness, but it’s important to remember that a scale cannot provide a truly accurate assessment. Your relationship with the scale, and the emphasis that you put on the number it spits out, is another critical element. It can be very easy to get hyper-focused on reaching or maintaining a certain weight, and this can result in negative and even dangerous behaviors. However, if you can view the scale for what it is – simply an instrument for tracking your weight – and not the end-all, be-all determinant of health and fitness, then using it throughout your journey can be a positive thing.