Exercise is not always fun, especially when you’re running a treadmill or riding a stationary bike when you could be partying at the bar or watching your favorite television show in the comfort of your inviting couch.
Often times, the only comfort that we get from those long and arduous cardio sessions is the calorie counter that shows how many calories we’ve burned as we push through the boredom on that God-forsaken machine…
The question is, can we trust that digital computer to tell us the truth? How accurate are calorie counters on exercise machines…It sure looks technically advanced, and thus trustworthy…
The University of California at San Francisco put the machines to the test and what they discovered may shock you.
The scientists at the Human Performance Lab at UCSF used sophisticated machinery to determine how many calories each person actually burned while using different types of exercise machines. They then compared those actual values to the calorie counts provided by the machines.
In addition to the calorie counters on the exercise machines, the researchers also tested heart rate monitors, which report caloric expenditure, to see if they are as accurate as reported.
On average, the machines overestimated the number of calories burned by 19% while the heart-rate watches overestimated the number of calories burned by 28%! More specifically, the various machines returned the following values:
As you can see, this overestimation can pose a significant obstacle to those people who rely on these numbers to estimate caloric expenditure. Lucky for me, I never trusted these machines.
Allow me to give you some alternative ways to get more out of the calorie number that ticks away with each step:
Dr. Ray Hinish is a nutritional pharmacist, certified personal trainer, & certified Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach. He currently practices in Baltimore, MD, where he owns and operates a wellness center and natural foods restaurant. His mission is to help folks to live their health potential so that they can pursue their passions with confidence and endless supplies of energy!