News: My date with BOD POD
Story by Senior Airman Jarad Denton
LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. - The first thought that crossed my mind when I stood face-to-face with the Langley Air Force Base, Va., BOD POD, June 1, was that I shouldn’t have eaten such a big lunch.
Thankfully, two hours had passed since lunchtime – so I was fully ready to don my spandex shorts and spend some quality time inside the giant egg.
“It’s all a mathematical equation,” said Tony Arroyo, Langley Health and Wellness Center exercise physiologist. “The BOD POD measures your body composition by calculating weight and body volume through air displacement.”
My confused expression must have registered with Arroyo, because he paused the machine calibrations and explained the process in more detail.
“Underwater weigh-ins used to be the gold standard,” he began. “The BOD POD replaced that. Instead of measuring how much water you displace, the pod measures how much air you displace.”
I nodded my head in understanding, and stretched the swim cap Arroyo had given me over my head, making a mental note to double-check that I had taken any jewelry and watches off. Arroyo continued his calibrations, asking me for my name, date of birth, gender and height. He selected “general” for ethnicity, which prompted me to ask if ethnic origin played a factor in this analysis.
“African-Americans tend to have a higher bone density,” he said. “It requires the pod to use different scale for calculation.”
Arroyo explained that the BOD POD takes the data it is given, and calculates it using either the Siri or the Brozek density models, depending on the ethnicity of the person using it. The final number is accurate, with a two percent margin of error. Arroyo unsealed and opened the door to the pod, revealing the chamber I was about to sit in.
I resisted the urge to do any stretching before I attempted to squeeze myself in there.
“Go ahead and step on the scale so we can measure your weight,” Arroyo said.
After a few seconds the BOD POD recorded my weight as 173.16 pounds. For a 5-foot, 7-inch male, that number was a bit high – but not surprising, as recently I’ve been trying to lift more weights than run laps. Nevertheless, I still blamed the number on the french fries I “had to have” for lunch.
“The whole process takes about five minutes,” Arroyo said. “You’ll feel your ears pop. Just relax, limit your movement and breathe normally.”
Truthfully, the egg was a lot less intimidating than I thought it would be. From the stories I’d heard, I was preparing myself to be trapped in a tiny cocoon for hours on end, while a machine told me how fat I was. But once I actually climbed in the BOD POD and sat down, I felt surprised at how much room there actually was.
Arroyo checked to see if I was alright before shutting the door and sealing the pod. The faint hissing noise reminded me of those movies where a character has to go into a decompression chamber. I reminded myself to sit still as the machine began its assessment.
As I heard the air move in the chamber, it sounded like the noise made by a blood pressure cuff when it tightens around an arm. In what seemed like less than a minute, Arroyo reopened the door.
“Are you doing ok?” he asked again.
I gave him a “thumbs up,” and he resealed the pod to continue the assessment. At no time did an angry, robot voice scream at me, telling me to lose weight. After about a minute, Arroyo opened the door again and told me the assessment was over.
“An assessment like this is great,” Arroyo said as we waited for my results. “It keeps you focused on what you are trying to accomplish.”
He said generally, exercise and nutrition are the two most common areas for improvement when an individual is trying to lower their body fat composition. However, when people come in and look lean but show high numbers, Arroyo asks if they have seen a doctor for high cholesterol or blood sugar, as they are indicators that should be checked out.
I nodded as Arroyo printed out my results: 25.9 percent – which falls under the excess-fat category. I glanced at my stomach, quietly telling it that I knew it was hiding the fat there and that it needed to go. However, Arroyo was quick to point out that my stats weren’t unusual, but anything above 30 percent, or below five percent, is a risky state. He also explained the energy expenditure results of my assessment.
“Right now, at rest, you are burning 1,585 calories per day,” he said. “Depending on your activity level, that number goes up.”
Arroyo explained that since I attend squadron physical training every other day, and work out with weights five days a week, I would classify as “very active.” This bumped my daily calories burned to 3,297. However, Arroyo also made sure to tell me if I’m eating poorly or taking in more calories than I burn, I will gain weight and accumulate fat. He encouraged me to come back to take the assessment again.
“A person can do this test three months later, after adopting a fitness program and sticking with it,” he said. “The more tests we have, the easier it is to solidly track the progress of fat loss.”
Before I left, he also made sure to explain the time required to make a fitness lifestyle change.
“Change in body composition doesn’t happen overnight,” Arroyo said. “It takes hard work and dedication. For most people looking to make a lifestyle change, we expect it to take three months before a significant change is realized.”
As I left, I realized, even though my number was higher than I wanted, I was still maintaining an active lifestyle. The BOD POD assessment simply gave me a good measure as to where I need to make changes in order to lower my body fat composition, which for me would be better nutritional choices and more cardio. The entire process wasn’t invasive, or even uncomfortable, and I left the HAWC feeling a lot more educated about where my fitness goals should be taking me.