I Got A 3D Body Scan — Here's What It Was Like

mbg Associate Movement & Wellness Editor By Ray Bass, NASM-CPT
mbg Associate Movement & Wellness Editor

Ray Bass is the associate movement and wellness editor at mindbodygreen and a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer. She holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania, with honors in nonfiction.

Is Getting a 3D Body Scan Worth It?

Image by Megan Doty x iStock / mbg Creative

In a society where body image and self-love are subjects most of us are still studying, you might hear the term "3D body scan" and think, "Why on Earth would anyone do that?" 

Why would you want a 3D scan of your body—a reminder of how much further you have to go to hit your fitness goals or look the way you want to?

At least, that's what I thought before my first 3D body scan, a service I booked at HACKD Fitness (one of many studios in the U.S. that carries the machine). But it turns out that the scan itself and the health insights I received afterward were interesting—and not what I expected.

Here's what went down when I got one.

What is a 3D body scan? 

According to Fit3D, a lead manufacturer of body scan machines, the 3D fit scan is a body composition assessment tool. It shows users an overall snapshot of their body and provides a mecca of information like lean and fat mass, circumferences and body measurements, and a posture analysis.

The actual scan takes only 35 seconds, and afterward you receive two emails: one with your body composition info, and one with the posture analysis. The scan gathers this information by capturing multiple images of your body, each from a different angle, and then uses an algorithm to give you a 3D replica of your body, no radiation or frequencies needed. The best part? The information is only for you and whomever you choose to share it with—the facility where you complete the scan doesn't have access to it.

In addition to the emails, Fit3D saves all of the data from your scan to your account (which you make before your first scan), so it's available to you whenever you want. If you choose to get multiple scans over a period of time—say a few months, which many people do for comparison and progress tracking—that data is saved as well. The only barrier to entry for a 3D body scan is finding a facility that carries the machine, but the "Locations" feature on the Fit3D site makes it easy. (Plot twist: There are actually way more than you'd think, even in other countries.)

So in essence, a 3D body scan gives you a zoomed-out and zoomed-in look at your body, as well as some key data points that you can share with a coach, trainer, and doctor or just keep for yourself to use as a baseline. The price per scan varies by studio, but on average they're about $45, though some gyms, if they have the machine, include it in a membership package. If you're considering one, it's worth doing your research to find a studio that's conveniently located and offers the service within your price range.

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What's it like to get one? 

As the name suggests, a 3D body scan is, in fact, a scan of your body. So in order for the machine to get the most accurate reading, you should remove as much non-form-fitting clothing as possible. If you feel comfortable doing the scan naked, that's the best way to ensure nothing else gets picked up. (The facility will usually have the machine in an area that allows for privacy—if not, you may want to refrain from stripping down.) Wearing leggings and a sports bra, or anything form-fitting is fine—just know that the machine will read anything you keep on as skin, so your circumferences and measurements may be a tad off.

Once bare, with excess clothes put aside in an undetectable place (you don't want those picked up by the machine either), you step onto a circular platform. There are little foot pads so you know where to stand, and you're flanked by two handles that you hold on to during the scan. When you're ready, you click small buttons on the handles, and the platform begins to spin slowly, and the scan ensues. All you have to do is stand up straight and stay still. If I can do it, you can do it.

Yep, that's it. Call it anticlimactic, call it painfully easy, but what you can't call it is misleading. The machine does what it says it will—something we can't always say for other technologies. 

Is it worth it? 

OK, so the experience is painless, easy, quick, and informative—but is it worth it? It depends on what your goals are. At first, I thought this device could really only serve those interested in weight loss, but upon much reflection, I've realized I was wrong. This scan has just as much data to offer the folks who aren't looking to lose weight as it does those pursuing their healthy weight.

The scan gives you accurate data that's difficult or tedious to obtain yourself (or with traditional methods)—if you've ever stepped on multiple scales and seen all different numbers or tried to use those body fat caliper trinkets, you know what I'm talking about. Plus, a 3D body scan gives you an overall picture of your health (obviously it doesn't tell you if what you're eating is healthy, but it tells you if you have a dangerous level of body fat or serious muscle imbalances). Besides the posture analysis, lean and fat mass, body fat percentage, and measurements, the machine gives you a body composition score, which takes all of these factors, and your weight, into account.

If the health data doesn't appeal to you, perhaps the other info will more. The measurements can be used for everything from tracking your progress (if you're trying to build muscle or improve definition) to finding clothes that fit you better (now that you know your real measurements). Or maybe the posture analysis—my favorite part of the scan—may be the wake-up call you need to finally fix your posture. All in all, a 3D body scan provides a lot of data, and if you're interested in improving your health or just want more insight into your body, it's worth considering a scan. Or you can do what I did, which is to find one, get one, and take from it what you will.

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