Whether you're actively following a weight-loss program or you just want to keep closer tabs on your weight, you'll want the best bathroom scales available. Digital bathroom scales are in high demand over analog bathroom scales for people who want to track more than pounds (you can even choose a talking bathroom scale if you don't care to look down to read the numbers yourself).
Analog Bathroom Scales
There are two kinds of analog bathroom scales: spring-based scales and weight-based scales like you step on at the doctor's office. Weight-based scales are considered by many health professional to deliver the most accurate and consistent readings over time. If you're following a strict weight-loss regime where accuracy counts, a weight-based analog scale is your best choice.
Spring-based scales with their numbered dials used to a common sight in most homes. Tricky to read and adjust at best, these analog scales aren't known for their accuracy. Some models also cost as much more advanced digital bathroom scales, making cost-savings a poor reason for choosing one.
Digital Bathroom Scales
It's hard to misread the numbers on a digital bathroom scale display, but you should look for models that have screens you read easily without having to bend forward.
People who want to track their weight over time should look for memory capabilities that can compare your most recent weight reading to up to 10 previous readings. If more than one person will be using the scale, look for models that offer the ability to track and store data for multiple users, a feature sometimes called personalization.
If you're going to purchase a digital scale, choose a brand or model that requires lithium instead of AA batteries for the longest battery life.
Body Composition Scales
Advanced digital scales can also calculate different aspects of your body composition. These measurements usually include the ratio of fat to muscle, your hydration level or both. People who are trying to increase muscle mass are best off with a body composition scale that determines the relationship between weight and muscle mass percentage (muscle is more compact than fat, but is also weighs more). This information can be a dieter's best friend if or when they experience a weight-loss plateau. Simply put: if the pounds aren't coming off, but your percentage of body fat is decreasing, you're still making progress toward your goal.
For the best readings, look for body composition scales that allow you to enter both your height and your gender, and for households with multiple users, can store that data for everyone who will be using it. Be aware that body fat measurements are calculated by analyzing the way a small electrical pulse travels through fat and muscle tissue. Pregnant women and anyone with a pacemaker should avoid body composition scales.
There's some debate as to how accurate digital bathroom scales are. Both consumer and professional reviews take issue with their readings. Body-fat calculations in particular are easily influenced by body temperature and hydration levels. Keep in mind however, that while the overall percentage reading may not be accurate, any changes in that number are: body fat loss is body fat loss.
High-Tech Electronic Bathroom Scales
Data junkies and serious athletes will appreciate high-end body composition scales for the additional measurements they offer, including bone mass and visceral fat while also tracking the calorie intake for multiple users. Specialized models are available for both super-lean and muscular body types.
When you're shopping, expect these scales to carry high prices. Look for measurements modes like "lean", "athlete" or "muscular" and the ability to measure weight in .1-pound increments in cases where every ounce matters.
No matter which type of bathroom scale you buy, it will have a weight limit. Be sure you choose a scale that can accommodate all users. Most scales max out between 300 and 400 pounds. High capacity weights are available, but you will pay extra for that ability.
Points to Consider
Bathroom scale performance is measured by accuracy and consistency of its readings. The first time you use your new scale, step on and off it repeatedly to see if and how much the reading changes. If you're not getting the same reading each time, return it.
Consistency is generally considered to be more important than accuracy; you can account for being a few pounds more or less overall, but consecutive readings that vary are a problem. In any case, make sure the scale can be "zeroed out" or adjusted back to zero.
You'll also want to be sure you're able to stand comfortably on your scale and that the weight reading doesn't change if you shift position. If safety is a concern, you can find bathroom scales that feature extra-wide platforms and anti-skid pads. Keep in mind the body composition scales have metal plates on the platform that generate the electrical pulse used to measure body fat; these can be slippery when wet so dry your feet carefully before use.
Wanting to adopt a healthier lifestyle is one thing. Obsessing and hurting yourself in the name of fitness is something else entirely.