Wireless body area networks (WBANs) offer many promising new applications in the area of remote health monitoring. An important element in the development of a WBAN is the characterization of the physical layer of the network, including an estimation of the delay spread and the path loss between two nodes on the body. This paper discusses the propagation channel between two half-wavelength dipoles at 2.45 GHz, placed near a human body and presents an application for cross-layer design in order to optimize the energy consumption of different topologies. Propagation measurements are performed on real humans in a multipath environment, considering different parts of the body separately. In addition, path loss has been numerically investigated with an anatomically correct model of the human body in free space using a 3-D electromagnetic solver. Path loss parameters and time-domain channel characteristics are extracted from the measurement and simulation data. A semi-empirical path loss model is presented for an antenna height above the body of 5 mm and antenna separations from 5 cm up to 40 cm. A time-domain analysis is performed and models are presented for the mean excess delay and the delay spread. As a cross-layer application, the proposed path loss models are used to evaluate the energy efficiency of single-hop and multihop network topologies.