View Full Version : Do you trust the calorie burn readouts on equipment?
09-08-2003, 03:10 PM
What do you think? are they truly scientifically based or are they exaggerated? I just got off my elliptical and it said almost 600 cal in 45 minutes. I feel I had a good workout, but I'm not sure I trust those numbers. Anyone have an opinion? Anyone know where you could get info about how they are calculated?
09-08-2003, 03:55 PM
I think they are almost always high. 600 calories in 45 minutes sounds very high to me. But, then again, I am no expert! :)
Does your machine ask you for your weight? I think those would be more accurate, but I still don't trust them. If it doesn't ask you for your weight, then who knows how they are calculating it. As I understand it, the more you weigh, the more calories you will burn. And I also wonder if men and women burn calories at different rates as well (since men tend to have more muscle)? I think the reclining bikes at our gym do ask male or female, but most machines I've ever been on don't.
09-08-2003, 04:13 PM
I agree with lindrusso...
a lot depends on exertion level, weight, etc....
take it with a grain of salt and congrats on working out :)
09-08-2003, 06:07 PM
Everything I've heard (and I've worked in gyms for 15 years) says that those calorie counters aren't at all accurate. I think you'd have to be hooked up to electrodes or something like that to get an accurate reading - and people might look at you funny if you did that in the gym.
09-09-2003, 04:16 AM
If the cardiovascular machine you use does not ask for your weight, height, age, female or male, then most likely the caloric burn isn't accurate. My boss owns 3 gyms and he has been told by the major cardiovascular machine makers that the caloric burn read out given at the end of your workout is based on a 150-pound person.
I have an A5 Polar heart rate monitor and I've worn it on machines that do ask for your weight. 9 out of 10 times, the caloric burn on the machine burn out is at least 200 calories more than my A5.
The A5 caloric burn is accurate because it asks for your age, weight, height, male or female.
09-09-2003, 07:08 AM
I have read that the treadmill is the most accurate in terms of calorie counting. That being said, I really wouldn't worry about it. 45 minutes on the elliptical is an awesome workout, your metabolism will stay raised for a time after your workout, and the health benefits you are getting far out weigh the calories you possibly didn't burn.
I have the same heart rate monitor as Linda, and I agree that it usually shows a number that is lower than the cardio machines.
09-09-2003, 10:31 AM
I use a Polar monitor, the one that came with my treadmill. elliptical asks age & weight although I lie about age. in the workout summary it shows time "in zone" but the zone is low. I've been exercising for a long time & like to work at slightly higher number than my age allows.
I'd never paid much attention to calorie burn before but this is a new machine & I was surprised it was so high. I thought maybe they skew the numbers higher to make you think you're working harder than you think you are. I guess that beats working yourself half to death and being told you burned 200 calories...
Laura, Linda can you tell me more about A5? do you wear a watch that gives you a separate readout from the machine electronics?
09-09-2003, 10:43 AM
Originally posted by Valerie226
although I lie about age.
just wondering. why?
09-09-2003, 11:56 AM
I'll post more later regarding my A5.
Here's a really good website regarding heart rates, etc. Sally Edwards came to our gym for a great workshop. All of my cycle instructors are certified "Heart Zones" instructors.
09-09-2003, 11:57 AM
If you go to this link
you can read about one of my instructors who lost quite a bit of weight!
09-09-2003, 01:54 PM
I lie 'cause the memory does not count time out of my "zone" (which is determined by the age you enter) in the exercise summary. so warm up time and the last part of cool down is not counted (fine) but if I go over 140 it does not count that either. I've been exercising a long time & work at 130-145 depending on the machine/ plan for the day. so I tell the machine I'm 40 ( don't I wish!) although I'm 55. I just want an accurate tally of the time I'm spending in "zone". I asked & there is no other way to adjust the heart rate zones. I've exercised since my early 20's so this range is comfortable for me.
09-11-2003, 09:40 AM
heartzone.com was a very interesting site. as was Sally edwards. Ive heard her name come up numerous times thru a local newspaper fitness column. I may get her book.
I have a treadmill & elliptical. both precor. You know, it's funny. I feel like I work harder on the treadmill & my heart rate indicates so. but the calorie burn shows about 1/3 less than on the elliptical. this is not a "scientifically variable controlled study" but comparing the two. I know an elliptical selling point is that your perceived exertion is less than on a treadmill but I would think my heart rate would be higher. both are good workouts. thoughts? I mean, if I feel like I am working less hard, my heart rate shows I am working less hard, how can I be burning significantly more calories?
09-11-2003, 10:32 AM
I'm just guessing here - but on the elliptical - if you are using and moving your arms using the "handles" with some kind of resistance/higher level, then I think this might be the reason why you are burning more calories on the elliptical.
For more calorie burn on the treadmill, if you haven't already done so, you could increase the incline. I do the 20-minute workout below on the treadmill (when I don't have time for a longer workout) and it's pretty tough:
5 minutes warm-up;
walk for 10 minutes: every minute, add 1% incline for 10 minutes (until you get to 10% incline); adjust your walking speed accordingly.
then, decrease the incline back to 0% and jog for 5 minutes;
cool down for the next 5 minutes.
I've read somewhere that if you increase the incline on a treadmill to 1%, your workout will be similar to an outdoor walking workout.
09-11-2003, 10:33 AM
I don't think you are burning more calories. I've read time and time again that the treadmill is the number one piece of equiptment as far as potential for burning calories. I like the elliptical as well...I use the precor with stationary handles and prefer the lifefitness machines with the moveable handles/poles. When I use the precor, my resistance is set pretty high as well as the incline and I pump my arms vs holding on to the bars. For a 30 minute workout, it says I burn about 650 calories...I think 350 is probably a more accurate ballpark figure.
09-11-2003, 10:37 AM
By the numbers I'm getting here, I think the machines I use are pretty accurate. They usually give me about 300 calories (give or take) for a 30 minute workout on the elliptical. The elliptical/stairclimber thing (not sure what it's called) gives me slightly lower numbers. Don't use the treadmill very often (I'm a very uncoordinated runner).
09-11-2003, 02:06 PM
I doubt the calorie measures are all that accurate as well. Since I am a WW person and count points, and because I never really felt WW did a very good job of defining what is light, moderate, or high exertion to describe actvitiy (tho I hear the new flex point version does a better job - will have to see) I have my own methodology. To calculate activity points, I subtract 10 percent from whatever a machine tells me, then round DOWN to the nearest 100 calories. I count 1 AP =100 calories to get a number. So, for example, if a machine says I burned 275 calories, I subtract 28 to get 247, round to 200 and will "give" myself 2 activity points. I've been at or below goal for 3 years so it seems to be working.
09-11-2003, 02:36 PM
On the treadmill I run at 4% incline. I never had leg speed so I really can't go much faster than about 4.5-4.7 mph. fat, short little legs! sometimes I warm up by walking uphill at 10% with hand weights. in 30 min I will get around 400 calories. heart rate was 142-145 most of the time. and that brings up another question... if you can do either, is it better to increase speed or increase incline?
I just did an elliptical workout. ours has the arm bars that you work back & forth. started at resistance 7, and went up to 9. (the ellipticals with arm movement do not have a way to change incline, it's set) 50 min by the time I cooled down. & then the phone rang & I forgot to check the numbers! ARRGH! it was about 600 calories. heart rate average was 132. it takes me longer to get my heart rate up on the elliptical too.
so I don't quite get it. both are great workouts but I think the formula used by the elliptical is more "generous" on calorie burn.
For robin... workout intensity is variable depending on your fitness level.
a marathoner might consider a five mile run a warm up jog! I'm fit but would consider a 5 mile run significant. depends on what your baseline is.
09-11-2003, 03:01 PM
Valerie226 - I understand that what is light, moderate and high depends upon the person - what their fitness level is, what they are doing, and that intensity can change over time. The running example you used is perfect. When I started running, a 1 minute run was really tough, I could barely breathe. Today, after much work, I can run 3 miles straight and while it isn't easy, it isn't as tough as that one minute was a while back!.
My quandry is the way WW defines exertion, and their examples of what would be consdered each level. They seem to focus on sweat and since I am not a big sweater, I don't like that measure. So, when I use machines, I base my APs on the calorie coount using my method and for other actvitiy, I focus on how my breathing and heart rates feel.
09-11-2003, 03:21 PM
so as your fitness level changes, so would your definition of light, mod, heavy. a big organization like WW is going to have to use generalities.
I judge based on " perceived exertion" and "how long". DH & I hike a lot. so I count most hikes as "10's" on my scale just because of how much time they take. so a fairly easy hike of 10 miles long gets as much credit as a shorter but more intense workout in the gym.
Yeah, I remember that first " run". thought I was GOING TO DIE! crawled back to my apartment & had a smoke. Things have changed!
09-12-2003, 06:32 PM
My system for walking/hiking/running is like yours, Valerie. To calculate calories burned when walking/running, I usually go by distance covered. 1 mile is 100 calories no matter the pace. Walking is less effort but takes longer. Running is tougher but I lakes less time - at least a little less time as I do not run all that fast yet!
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