Whether you’re simply health conscious or trying to shed a few pounds, a bathroom scale can help you know what you weigh and track your progress toward your goal weight. Digital bathroom scales are gaining popularity over analog bathroom scales for their ability to measure more than pounds. Don’t let bathroom scale choices and terminology weigh you down. Pronto’s Bathroom Scale Buying Guide will make finding the bathroom scale you need quick and easy.
Choose a weight-balanced analog bathroom scale or medical scale for the most consistent and accurate weight readings overall. Skip spring-based analog bathroom scales in favor of similarly priced digital bathroom scales that are easier to read and more accurate.
For the greatest ease of use, purchase a digital scale with a large LED screen or a talking scale that announces your weight. Look for digital bathroom scales that store data for easy weight tracking and consider personalization features that can store weight data for multiple users.
Choose a body composition scale to track muscle mass as a measure of fitness where weight alone isn’t enough. Look for a body composition scale that stores height and gender data for you and anyone else who will be using it. Avoid body composition scales if you’re pregnant or have a pacemaker.
The number of measurements these bathroom scales track is more than the average person needs, but for serious athletes or gadget lovers, look for high-tech scales that measure weight, body mass, hydration levels, bone mass, activity level and daily caloric intake. Athletes for whom every ounce counts should look for scales that measure weight in .1-pound increments.
Make sure your bathroom scale’s weight capacity accommodates everyone who will use it. Step on a new bathroom scale at least five times to make sure it gives consistent, consecutive readings. Look for scales with a “zero out” function that resets the scale to zero and increases accuracy. Extra-wide platforms and anti-slip pads add comfort and stability.
A bathroom scale that uses a spring-based dial or a counterbalanced bar with movable weights. Weight-counterbalanced scales are the most accurate scales available. Spring-based dial scales are generally the least accurate.
A bathroom scale that can measure the ratio of body fat or water to muscle. These bathroom scales use a small electrical pulse to measure the density of your body, which travels differently through varying tissue types. People with pacemakers and women who are pregnant should not use body composition bathroom scales.
A powered scale that displays your weight as a digital number. Most digital bathroom scales use lithium or AA batteries. A lithium battery may never need to be replaced, while AA batteries need to be replaced frequently.
A feature that allows you to reset a bathroom scale to zero. This feature helps keep your bathroom scale’s readings accurate over time or after travel.
Analog bathroom scales are either weight based, like the scale you see at the doctor’s office or the health club, or spring based. Weight-based bathroom scales use weight blocks to counterbalance a horizontal bar and deliver visual weight readings that experts say are the most accurate and consistent readings you can get. If you’re following a strict weight-loss or health-improvement program where accurate measurements are critical to evaluating your success, weight-based analog bathroom scales are the best choice.
Spring-based analog scales, which are found in most homes, are the simplest bathroom scales available, displaying weight readings on a numbered dial. These bathroom scales can be tricky to read and adjust and aren’t known for their accuracy. Spring-based analog bathroom scales can also cost as much as some digital bathroom scales, leading some experts to call them the “last resort” of bathroom-scale purchases. If you want an analog bathroom scale, skip the spring-based models in favor of a weight-based bathroom scale.
When it comes to ease of use, digital bathroom scales are significantly easier to read than analog scales—there’s no mistaking the numbers on a digital display. Choose a digital bathroom scale with an LED screen large enough for you to read without bending to see your weight, or consider a talking digital bathroom scale that announces your weight.
If you’d like to track your weight over time, some digital bathroom scales feature built-in memories that can display anything from your most recent weight reading to your last 10 weigh-ins. For households where several people will be using the bathroom scale, look for multiple-memory settings, sometimes called “personalization.” A digital bathroom scale with personalization can be programmed to store data for each person who uses it.
Digital bathroom scales run on either lithium or AA batteries. Choose a scale that runs on lithium batteries for the longest battery life.
Some digital bathroom scales also calculate your body composition. Generally, body composition scales calculate your body’s ratio of fat versus muscle, water level or both. If you’re following a weight-loss program that includes building muscle mass, you’ll benefit from a body composition scale’s ability to display the relationship between your weight and your body’s percentage of muscle, which weighs more than fat. To put it simply, if you’re not losing weight, but your body fat percentage is going down, you’ll know that you’re making progress even if your weight isn’t changing much overall.
Look for body composition scales that measure body composition based on height and gender. If you’re purchasing the scale for household use, choose one that can store information for every user in your home. Body composition scales use an electrical pulse to calculate the ratio of fat to muscle (electricity moves differently through each tissue type), so they should not be used by anyone with a pacemaker or women who are pregnant.
These digital bathroom scales aren’t without controversy. Online consumer and professional reviews cite issues with consistency and accuracy. Body composition readings are affected by several factors, including your hydration level and body temperature. However, while the body-fat percentage measurement may not be exact, changes in that percentage are, and digital scales are a good way to measure an overall increase or decrease in muscle mass.
Body composition scales are also available in high-tech versions that measure more than just body fat and hydration levels. Manufacturers like Tanita make body composition scales that evaluate bone mass, body fat, body water and visceral fat while tracking caloric intake data for multiple users. Some body composition scales also offer special modes for lean or muscular body types.
This much data is probably more than the average home user needs, but for athletes in training or people who are in the process of making significant lifestyle changes, the option of measuring success beyond pure weight loss may provide the motivation needed to stick with a training regime. Expect these bathroom scales to be at the high end of the price range. Look for “lean,” “muscular” or “athlete” modes and body composition scales that measure weight in .1-pound increments versus the traditional .5-pound increments.
All bathroom scales have a weight capacity, so be sure the scale you choose has a limit that will accommodate everyone who will be using it. Digital bathroom scale weight limits generally range from 300 to 400 pounds, and paying more for your bathroom scale gets you higher weight capacities. If you’d rather measure your weight in kilograms, look for a digital scale that provides this measurement option. To get the most accurate weight readings, look for a bathroom scale that can be ‘”zeroed out,” or adjusted to zero.
When your scale arrives and you’re using it for the first time, be sure you can stand on it comfortably and that your weight reading doesn’t change as you shift position. If you’re concerned about safety, limit your options to bathroom scales with extra-wide platforms or antiskid pads. Keep in mind that body composition scales have metal plates on the platform where the electrical pulse originates—these plates can be slippery, so be sure your feet are dry before use.
Consistency and accuracy are the bywords of measuring the performance of any bathroom scale. The first time you use your bathroom scale, step on and off repeatedly to see if the reading changes. If you’re not getting the same reading each time, return it. Experts consider consistency more important than accuracy. A bathroom scale that is consistently off by a few pounds can be accounted for; consecutive readings that vary can’t be.