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Does the Calorie Readout on My Cardio Machine Work?

Can you trust the calorie display on your favorite cardio machines?


You may have already noticed that you can use an elliptical one day and a different elliptical (different brand) another day and burn a totally different calorie amount even though you did the same amount of work. Frustrating, I know.

Basically you should use the calorie readout only as a guideline but not as the end-all-be-all of how many calories you burned. The displays on cardio machines are notorious for being inaccurate and some machines are known to bump up the calorie readout by almost 25% (feel good factor keeps you using their machines, it's a little like vanity sizing in clothing). The reasoning for the inaccuracies are that the machines do not consider factors in individual fitness levels and the specificity of the exercise. Also they are not usually re-calibrated after hitting the gym floor.

Want tips on how to get the most accurate calorie readout? Then read more

  • Enter a body weight that is lower than your actual weight.
  • Add an extra few minutes to your workout.
  • When using machines with handles, don't let the handles support your body weight for you -- they are there to help with balance only.
  • Use a heart rate monitor that you have programmed for your personal stats -- it will give you the most accurate readout.
  • Don't focus on the calories the machine shows you're burning. Instead, focus on being consistent and increasing your intensity, that way you'll be more successful at maintaining a regular exercise routine.

Fit's Tip: If two machines show the same calories burned, but one workout seems way easier than the other then don't kid yourself! You've probably burned fewer calories than the one that felt harder.

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