Beyond the Scale: Munson uses $10,000 InBody machine to analyze muscle-to-fat ratios

Munson’s Healthy Weight Center is redefining the way that patients exercise and lose weight. Instead of relying on just the scale, the center is using another piece of equipment: the InBody machine.

The Healthy Weight Center, located at the Munson Community Health Center on Munson Avenue, purchased the InBody last year for about $10,000. It’s a sophisticated machine that uses low-level electrical currents through the body to assess fat, bone and muscle composition.

When the current encounters tissues that contain large amounts of fluid – such as muscle – it flows more or less freely. These tissues have high conductivity and do not interrupt the signal. Fat and bone, on the other hand, are not as conductive and tend to slow the signal down. The InBody machine analyzes the progress patients make in muscle-to-fat ratios … progress that may not show up on a traditional scale.

To begin, patients take off their shoes and socks and stand on a metal plate, holding on to two handles. Both the foot plate and the handles contain electrodes, which send an imperceptible electrical current through the body. The machine is also hooked up to a printer which, within five minutes, delivers a full InBody report for the patient at hand.

The report includes a comprehensive array of statistics, including weight, body mass index, and percent body fat. The InBody also breaks down your lean body mass and your body fat mass, with each analysis segmented into different parts of the body: right arm, left arm, right leg, left leg, and trunk. The InBody report shows test values relative to age and gender-specific averages.

According to Healthy Weight Center Coordinator Ron Hessem, the InBody machine has impacted the way his program works with patients. Since the Healthy Weight Center got started in 2007, the program has used scale readings and hip, waste, and neck measurements to build patient profiles and design weight loss or fitness programs.

The traditional scale method posed challenges for some of his patients, who put in the effort but saw little progress even after denying themselves food and forcing themselves to exercise, he said.
“And then they get on the scale, and nothing’s changed,” he said. “So now they’re defeated and they’re wondering, ‘Well, why am I doing this, if I’m not seeing results?’”

With the InBody machine, Hessem says he and his colleagues can combat that feeling of self-doubt more effectively. Even if a person’s weight or appearance isn’t changing yet, the InBody can show progress through subtle changes in body composition.

“With the machine, you are seeing changes,” he says. “Your body fat mass has gone down, but your muscle mass has gone up. So your composition is changing, even though the scale doesn’t reflect it or the mirror doesn’t reflect it yet.”

The InBody also does a lot of foundational work for Hessem and his crew. By showing exactly where muscle and fat mass is in the body, the machine can tell trainers where to focus with each patient. For instance, if one leg is significantly weaker than the other, Hessem can design an exercise program to even them out. The InBody even provides quick figures for how much body fat mass or lean body mass patients should try to gain or lose.

The benefits of the InBody aren’t just for people trying to lose weight, either. Hessem says he’s had runners, bodybuilders, and other fitness enthusiasts use the machine to help structure their workout schedules. For other patients, the InBody has flagged risks of conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes – encouraging potentially life-saving visits to the doctor.

With fitness trackers redefining the way people structure their fitness, Hessem thinks the InBody aligns perfectly with the needs of the modern patient.

“Technology is where people are going in fitness, to get that feeling of instant gratification,” he says. “They want to see results right now. It’s hard for people to wait around to see the scale move. Adding the technology piece was … the missing link for a complete program here.”

The Healthy Weight Center operates on a private pay model and InBody scans are available for anyone, not just long-term patients. Each scan costs $50.