Is Treadmill Calories Burned Accurate

You look down at the console after 30 minutes of sweating on the elliptical and feel pretty good about your cardio exercise.

After all, you just burned off the calories from your noon turkey sandwich!

Didn’t you? To find out how accurate your calorie counter is, we turned to the experts.

Read on to find out which machines you can trust, as well as ideas on how to get the most out of your workout.


Why pound your joints on the treadmill when you can burn just as many calories while watching real homemakers on the elliptical?

Therefore: According to Jay Cardiello, SHAPE fitness editor-at-large and founder of the JCORE sped up Body Transformation System.

The elliptical trainer is the least accurate for calorie tracking, with most machines overestimating your burn by 42 percent.

Why is it that elliptical machines are so out of date? Unlike treadmills, which can closely mimic your natural walk, the elliptical’s movement is not natural, according to Cardiello.

Ellipticals also differ in terms of range of motion from one manufacturer to the next, hence there is no such thing as a “standard.”

Plus, while utilizing the arm levers (handles) will raise your heart rate, your arms don’t weigh nearly as much as your hips, buttocks, and leg muscles, according to Michele Olson, Ph.D., an Auburn University professor of exercise physiology.

“So don’t mistake a significant rise in heart rate from increased arm movement for a significant increase in calories burned.”

Boost your calorie burn: If you truly want to maximize your calorie burn, avoid using this machine too frequently.

Because you spend less time on the elliptical, it’s ideal for cross-training cardio circuits (as a sort of recovery break in between two high-intensity machines such as the treadmill and the stair mill, for example).

If you can’t bear stepping on a treadmill, make the most of your time on the elliptical with this enhanced program.

Stair Climber

If you spend enough time in a gym, you’ll observe that most stair-stepper users lean over the console and take super-short, rapid strides rather than using their full range of motion. So, what’s the big deal about that?

According to Olson, leaning forward can reduce your total calorie burn by up to 50%.

Even if you make it through your exercise without looking like a hunchback, she adds, most stair steppers overestimate their total burn by roughly 20%.

Therefore: “The ‘gross energy expenditure,’ rather than the ‘net energy expenditure,’ is calculated in many models.

You’re resting metabolic rate, or the calories you would burn otherwise, is included in your gross energy expenditure “According to Olson. “What you really need to know is how many more calories you’re burning than your resting metabolic rate.”

So, if the machine says you burned 400 calories, a 20% change to get your net number shows that the stair stepper workout handles 320 of those calories.

“You burned 320 calories during the workout, and you would have spent an additional 80 calories sitting and reading a book anyhow.”

Boost your calorie burn: Always keep your back straight and only use a soft grip on the handrails (if necessary).

If your gym has a stepmill (the machine with the big moving staircase), use that instead of a stair-climber or stepper, which only demands modest motions from your legs

. It’s difficult (there’s a reason a stepmill is usually open when the treadmills are full! ), but it’s worthwhile.

Once you’ve tried this fat-burning regimen, you’ll see why it pays to walk the stairs with losing weight.


Fans of the treadmill will be happy to hear this: Experts believe the calorie counter is fairly accurate, particularly if you enter your weight without using the handrails.

The issue is that many treadmills don’t inquire for your weight and instead use a reference of 155 pounds, according to Olson.

That means that if you weigh 135 pounds, you’re actually burning 15% fewer calories than the machine claims (300 calories vs. 255 calories, for example).

Relying on the handrails, especially on steeper inclines or when running at fast speeds, might cause your reading to be wrong by as much as 40%. (that 300 calories burned just became 180).

And we’re not just talking about people who spend 20 minutes pulling themselves up a hill. According to Olson, even a small amount of weight on the support rails can reduce the number of calories burnt by 20% (or more).

To get the most out of your treadmill session, stay away from the handrails and maintain proper posture.

“Slumping over can significantly reduce your oxygen intake, making your workout more difficult,” Cardiello explains.

Take your run outside whenever workable if you can. “Running in the open air is more taxing on the body.

Also, you can’t compare the distance and pace of a treadmill run to that of an outside trail run because the treadmill’s calibration and physical stress are lower.”

Don’t think you’ll be able to make it outside? Make your indoor workout a little longer (or farther) to compensate for the topographical variation, or try this fat-blasting interval regimen.

Bike that stays in one place

Because they support your body weight, stationary bikes are in their own category of cardio machines, according to Olson.

“The calorie reading can be quite accurate if the bike calculates calories based on technical data like METs (metabolic equivalents) and watts (which measures power output).”

In fact, researchers at the Human Performance Center at the University of California at San Francisco discovered stationary cycles are the most accurate of all cardio devices, with only a 7% overestimation.

One thing to keep in mind is that a bike can’t tell you how to pedal, which could throw off your final total, according to Olson.

“When you use a standing climb posture at a high resistance, for example, you will burn more calories than seated cycling at the same resistance.

This is because when you stand and climb, you are no longer supported by your weight.” What is the magnitude of the disparity?

A 15-minute standing climb, according to Olson, burns around 15% more calories than sitting riding at the same resistance.

Boost your calorie burn by pedaling with intent! If you bike without enough resistance, you’ll burn fewer calories overall (whether seated or standing). To burn 500 calories in 35 minutes, try this deadly cycling program!

Final Thoughts

Take your calorie counter with a grain of salt. According to Cardiello, too many machines neglect critical parameters like your weight, use of handrails, or fitness level, which can make a major difference.

“The most important factor is [a person’s fitness]. How can a 200-pound out-of-shape man burn the same number of calories as a 165-pound man in good physical condition? They don’t have any!”

Instead of counting calories, track your heart rate during cardio sessions or use perceived rate of exertion to assess your progress.

The “talk test” might help you figure out if you’re truly working hard (if you’re gasping for air while trying to sing a song’s words, you’re working at near maximal intensity, according to Cardiello).

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