How accurate are the calorie counters on fitness equipment?
I don’t know if anyone accepts cardio machine calorie counters as 100% accurate. They are only a guide, based on assumptions and formulas of averages. However, there is an emotional connection to seeing our effort displayed numerically.
When you begin your cardio machine workout, the machine will probably ask you to enter in your current weight and gender. Based on these answers, it will estimate how much effort is required to burn calories. However, several essential factors are not part of this equation, including fitness level, body composition, muscle mass, body size, and age. Without these details, your calorie count is one-size-fits-all.
But are all cardio machines created equal when it comes to caloric misrepresentation? A recent study named the elliptical the least accurate when it comes to calorie counting estimates. Most machines overestimate your burn by almost 40%.
Stair steppers are also guilty of inflating effort because most people lean on the display. Stair steppers can decrease your total calorie burn by as much as 50%. Even if you stand up straight and avoid placing any pressure on the machine frame, most stair steppers are overestimating your total burn by about 20%.
But there is good news. Experts agree that the calorie counters on treadmills are reasonably accurate, especially if you have entered in your weight and don’t use the handrails. Using the bars, especially on higher inclines, can throw off your reading by as much as 40%.
Stationary bikes often calculate based on technical data like METs (metabolic equivalents) and watts (which measures power outputs). Stationary bikes are the most accurate of all cardio machines, with an overestimation of only 7%.
Cardio exercise is essential to a balanced fitness routine. It strengthens your heart, boosts your mood by releasing endorphins, helps sleep, reduces joint stiffness, and may help manage high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. When using a cardio machine to calculate effort, it’s best to use the number on the display as a guide. A couple of weeks ago, we talked about heart rate training and advised how you can make the most of your workouts by working in the different zones to assess effort. By applying this approach to your cardio workouts, you can maximize your time. By not using handrails, making your program instead of using presets, maintaining proper posture, and doing interval sprints, you can use these machines to your advantage.
It’s often hard for us to separate ourselves from the bright displays that reward us for our efforts. However, if you don’t have a heart rate monitor and are using calorie counters on your fitness equipment, you may be overestimating how hard you are working.
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