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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

  • 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.

Join The Conversation
mandiesoh mandiesoh 10 years
i always check, but i also work out according to mins. for eg, i decide to cross train for 30mins, so i work out that long. the calorie read out is jus to keep track. lol
puddinpie puddinpie 10 years
I never check the calorie read-out. I have a set number of miles I like to log on the elliptical, and just aim for that number everytime I workout.
mandiesoh mandiesoh 10 years
thats how i feel about the cycle bike yayi! i'll still use it as a guide i guess, but now im not 100% reliant! boo!
yayita yayita 10 years
sweet!! thanks Fit I really appreciate this cuz i was wondering about it. At the gym I never trust those read outs cuz check this out. Is it possible for someone that weighs alot and is tall to do one hour of excercise divided by bike, crosstrainer and treadmil and only burn a total of 310 calories?? I think i'd be more cuz judging by the hardness of the workout and the amount of sweat I feel like it should be more
ccsugar ccsugar 10 years
Arrghh I just need to break down and get a heart-rate monitor :(
mandiesoh mandiesoh 10 years
thanks cams, i'll take note of that in future! :D
cams cams 10 years
Yeah I was so mad when I first got my heart rate monitor. I was like "I ONLY BURNED 200 CALORIES IN 30 MINUTES?!?" when the machine says 450. frustrating. I learned the higher you get your HR the more Calories you burn. so thats what I focus on now.
mandiesoh mandiesoh 10 years
:jawdrop: OMG i feel so cheated now. LOL. :(
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