Are Calorie Counts on Exercise Machines Accurate?

How accurate are the numbers?

How accurate are the numbers?

Do you use exercise machines at the gym?  If you do, that’s great!  But if you rely too heavily on the data that the gym equipment provides, you may be in for a little surprise. The calorie counts on exercise machines are not always accurate.  But it may actually help you get a more enjoyable workout.  I’ll explain why.

Calorie Counts – Not Always Accurate

The number of calories that you burn during exercise depends on a number of factors including your gender, your weight, the speed/intensity of the workout and the time spent exercising.  In general, most exercise machines take these factors into account when they provide an estimated number of calories burned.  But most machines can’t assess your personal metabolic profile and your level of fitness. These factors can also play a role in the final calorie count.

In addition, there are mechanical issues that may affect your total calorie number.  In 2010, ABC News did a study to assess the accuracy of exercise machine calorie counts and found that in most cases, the numbers were too high.  According the their research, calorie counts were overestimated by 7 – 42% depending on the machine used.  Equipment manufacturers said that maintenance and wear and tear issues with machines can cause variations.

How Do I Evaluate My Workout?

I wouldn’t ignore the calorie counts entirely.  The data is helpful, but just like calorie counts for food products, they have a margin of error.  If you’ve always relied on the numbers to guide your workouts, this is a good opportunity to focus on other important benefits of exercise.

For example, if you go for a 30-minute uphill walk on the treadmill and you don’t burn as many calories as you hoped, you may be tempted to feel disappointed. But regardless of the number of calories burned, you still improved your heart health, decreased your risk of many diseases and chronic conditions, built strength in your lower body and improved your confidence and well being.  It’s important to give yourself credit for those accomplishments, regardless of what the numbers say.

Let the numbers guide you, but don’t take them too seriously.  The numbers that matter most are the ones that you find on the scale and in your doctors office.

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