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Are The Calorie Counters On Cardio Machines Accurate?

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Old 06-28-2006, 07:31 PM   #1
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Default Are The Calorie Counters On Cardio Machines Accurate?

I've always heard (and believed) that the calorie counters on cardio machines read way too high - I mean, no way do I burn 800 calories an hour on the elliptical! I just came across an article at cnn.com that confirms my suspicions - Burning calories is not an exact science:

More often than not, the machines will overestimate by as much as 30 percent, though an overestimation of 10 percent to 15 percent is more likely.

The article suggests taking the following steps to correct the inaccuracies:

To correct for the inaccuracies, try the following tips:
  • Enter a body weight that is lower than your actual weight.
  • Try switching machines so your muscles avoid becoming conditioned to one. When you switch between different machines, the change in motion and the muscles you use will force you to work harder, helping you burn more calories.
  • Add an extra five minutes to your exercise session, but without the assumption that you'll burn more calories.
  • When using weight-bearing equipment, don't let the handles support your body weight for you -- they are intended to assist with balance only.
  • Try to concentrate on how hard you're working and sweating rather than on how many calories the machine shows you're burning. When you focus on being consistent and increasing your intensity, you'll be more successful at maintaining a regular exercise routine. This will maximize any cardiovascular and weight-loss benefits you'll achieve.
Personally, I just use the calorie counters as a way to judge progress day to day, but I know a lot of members here like to pin down their calories burned per day -- perhaps these tips will help make the machine read-outs a little more accurate.
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Old 06-28-2006, 10:01 PM   #2
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Although I keep track of the machine readouts, I don't depend on them to judge my workouts. With each type of cardio, I have a set goal; examples:

- brisk: work at my aerobic capacity, just short of being out of breath, and increase my endurance at these speeds

- high intensity: work above my aerobic capacity into my lactic acid threshold or VO2 maximum; I do get out of breath and feel like I will burst. The goals are to force my cardio vascular system to deal with the stress, thereby becoming stronger, deal more efficiently with lactic acid, and increase my jogging/running intervals.

I increase the time/intensity and do it until it becomes more comfortable, before increasing again. The machine readouts just reinforce my progress, because they go up as I do.
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Old 06-29-2006, 08:32 AM   #3
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another thing to consider is that as you do aerobic exercise, your body becomes more efficient at burning calories over time.

Example, you start a workout regiment that is just a 30 minute walk on a treadmill a day. let's say you burn 100 calories during that time period at first. as your body starts to adapt to the new stimulus (walking), the adaptation results in your body configuring itself to burn less calories during (and after) the activity, so after few weeks, at the same intensity and duration, you may only be burning 75 calories.
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Old 08-13-2006, 08:54 PM   #4
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From what Ive read. The treadmill is the only cardio machine that accurately measures calories burned.
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Old 11-08-2006, 10:07 AM   #5
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I'm glad I found this thread! I was just wondering about this... luckily I've been going by what FitDay says, which is 500 something calories per hour instead of the 800 that the elliptical reads. I'm a little disappointed that the "extra deficit" I wasn't counting actually doesn't exist though.
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Old 11-30-2006, 09:21 AM   #6
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How many calories do you burn from using the weights? Say you are an experienced weight lifter lifting quite heavy (e.g. chest presses with 25 pounds in each hand), doing 2 sets of 12 to 15, and you weigh the 150s. Thanks!

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Old 01-01-2007, 08:17 PM   #7
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Default heart monitor

It's my understanding that a heart monitor accurately measures calories burned. They aren't very expensive and well worth the money. When I first started working out regularly, I wore it religiously to make sure my heart rate stayed in the most efficient calorie burning range. Loved it as a motivator!!
Move more, eat less. Move more, eat less.

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Old 01-15-2007, 12:23 PM   #8
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I don't believe the machines at the gym so i use the Body By glamour program that takes your height and weight and programs how much you really burned. It opened my eyes when 320 calories on the elliptical really turned out to be 278!
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Old 01-17-2007, 01:15 AM   #9
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I bought a heart rate monitor and have been wearing it to do outdoor runs, treadmill runs, elliptical workouts, weighlifting, and step aerobics. IT'S TRUE... the machines are WAY off. For the run I do on the treadmill, the machine says I am burning 600 calories. My heart rate monitor says just over 400. And that is what is says when I do the same distance in the same time outside. On the elliptical the machine says approximately 700 calories burned in 60 minutes; the heart rate monitor says approximately 450. I've done these workouts several times on each machine, and the machines are just as off every time. Interesting (and slightly annoying) to note that the machines are ALWAYS TOO HIGH! I guess the manufacturers of exercise equipment are trying to appeal to the same instinct that the clothing manufacturers who do "vanity sizing" are trying to appeal to. It doesn't upset me though... I'm just glad to have the real numbers. I never relied on the machines numbers anyway!
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Old 01-22-2007, 07:38 AM   #10
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All interesting! I wore my HR monitor to the gym this morning to double-check the machines. I did 30 minutes of high intensity intervals on the elliptical (Precor), set to my age and weight. The machine said I burned 409 calories. My HR monitor said 215. That's a HUGE difference!
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Old 01-30-2007, 05:21 AM   #11
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bs about the treadmill counting correct calories...i put all my data in and had a heart rate monitor so the tread krew my bpm at all times...at the end of my workout my heart rate monitor (watch) showed me half the calories the treadmill did...i say invest in a watch...mines from nike, i love it!
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Old 01-30-2007, 10:42 AM   #12
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My elliptical has a heart rate monitor strap which you wear. Doing a similar routine (or even harder!) than using a gym elliptical, my elliptical reports about half the calories that those in the gym would normally report.

An example would be heart pounding elliptical workout with intervals for 25-30 at home usually nets me around 200-250 calories. If I did that same workout at the gym, the gym machines would normally say around 500 calories.
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Old 02-13-2007, 10:45 AM   #13
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Red face Elliptical on Fitday?

This is an interesting topic, I've always wondered the same thing, regarding the accuracy of the readings on these machines. I have both a treadmill and elliptical at home, and I tend to use the "calories burned" indicator as a motivator, not as guaranteed accuracy.

I have been putting my activities in Fitday.com and cannot find the elliptical machine as an option. I looked under general exercises, and then tried to search, and still couldn't find it. Does anyone know where it is? It helps me to keep track of everything to ensure continued progress!


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Old 02-26-2007, 01:51 AM   #14
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Where can I get one of these heart rate monitors, and how much does a decent one go for? (And what ones do you all own and find work well?)
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Old 03-02-2007, 01:01 AM   #15
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I am so glad to know I am not the only one thinking the equipment is not OK as far as the counting calories or monitoring heart rate.
I am looking for my personal heart rate monitor, I need suggestions please!!! What is better, the writst watch or a body band? any particular brand?
Prices??? Thanks so much!
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