Are Calorie Counters on Cardio Machines Accurate

The calorie counters on cardio machines are a little bit of an encouragement to get moving, and they can be an interesting way to track your progress. But are the numbers really accurate?

It isn’t that hard to guess that the calorie counters on treadmills and elliptical machines overestimate how many calories you burn during your workout. In fact, in one study, ellipticals overestimated calorie burn by more than four times what was actually burned.

That isn’t the only problem with calorie counts on cardio equipment, though. Other gadgets that claim to count calories, like fitness trackers and wrist-worn watches, also tally different numbers.

According to Mikael Mattsson, a physical therapist and co-author of The Complete Guide to the Eating Psychology for Weight Loss, these devices rely on some type of “proxy” for calculating your calorie burn. This may include measuring how much you move on the machine, or using your heart rate to determine your workout intensity.

However, it isn’t necessarily a reliable number, and it does not take into account other factors that can influence your calorie burn during a workout. These factors include your fitness level, whether you hold onto the handrails on a treadmill or exercise bike, and the way you use the machine.

So if you’re looking for an accurate number, you might want to stick with a heart rate monitor or gauge your exertion by using a “talk test.” If you’re gasping for breath while singing the lyrics to a song on an elliptical, that is a sign of high intensity.

The MET is a good proxy for calorie burn, but it doesn’t take into account other things that can affect calorie burn, including how long you’ve been exercising, your current fitness level, and how you’re using the machine. For example, if you’re holding on to the handrails while walking, that will reduce your MET by about 50 percent.

Calorie counters can be overstated by 15 to 20 percent because of all the different factors that come into play. This means that if you weigh 135 pounds, your treadmill calorie burn number will be about 300 calories, which is not accurate for most people.

Some treadmills don’t ask for your weight, which can be an even bigger calorie discrepancy, says Heather Olson, a certified personal trainer in Seattle. Those that do, typically use a reference weight of about 155 pounds, she says.

If your machine is older, its calorie burn numbers might be less accurate. Newer machines tend to be more accurate, so check that before you start your workout!

The best thing you can do is to try and make your calorie burn as accurate as possible. That can mean adjusting your exercise frequency, adding more challenging exercises, or tracking your heart rate to find out how hard you’re working during your workout. Those are all great ways to improve your calorie burn, so give them a shot!

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