Do you ever use one of the machines at the gym and wonder if the calorie indicators are accurate? Like many of you, I like to know exactly how many calories I’m burning when I workout (is it a salad’s worth? A chicken leg? Ooooh, maybe a nice big piece of chocolate! ) ……so I decided to do something about it.
Enter my Polar FT60 Women’s Heart Rate Monitor, pictured at right, a super high-quality heart rate monitor that (allegedly) accurately indicates calories burned. I would like to beleive it’s pretty darn accurate because it takes into account your individual VO2 max — how well your body uses oxygen — as well as your height, gender, weight, and age, unlike most machines which only factor in weight and age.
So, while people looked at me a little strangely (seriously…..you never saw anyone wear a heart rate monitor and hop on 5 different machines during a workout while constantly checking their wrist?), I tried several machines at the gym and here is what I found, starting with the least accurate to the most accurate machine:
- PRECOR EFX ELLIPTICAL – I always loved this machine: non-impact, not hard on the joints and you feel like you’re getting a great workout. What’s not to love? Well, the calorie indicator for one thing…..my Polar FT60 indicated I burned 192 calories in a half hour; The Precor EFX wants me to beleive I burned a whopping 274 calories. MACHINE OVERESTIMED CALORIES BURNED BY 164 CAL/HOUR.
- LIFEFITNESS 9500 HR ELLIPTICAL (WITH ARMS) – Let me just say that I hate this machine…..I know lots of people use it at the gym and love it, but for me the biomechanics just seem all wrong; plus it hurts my knees…..hmmm, maybe it wasn’t designed for tall people? In any case, my Polar FT60 indicated 270 calories burned in a half hour; the Life fitness showed 321 calories. One more reason this peice of equipment bugs me: MACHINE OVERESTIMATED CALORIES BURNED BY 102 CAL/HOUR
- STAIRMASTER STEPMILL 7000 PT – This giant staircase is one tough workout, any way you look at it, so you will burn lots of calories regardless of how inaccurate the calorie indicator is. That being said, my Polar FT60 indicated 288 calories burned in a half hour; the Stepmill showed 327 calories. Once again, the MACHINE OVERESTIMATED CALORIES BURNED BY 78 CAL/HOUR
- STAIRMASTER FREECLIMBER – Well, this classic stairmaster may not be totally accurate, but at least you don’t have to worry about going home and eating an extra 100 calories thinking you already burned it off at the gym because in all likelihood you will have burned MORE. My Polar FT60 indicated 282 calories burned in a half hour; the stepper indicated 258 calories. In this case, the MACHINE UNDERESTIMATED CALORIES BURNED BY 48 CAL/HOUR.
- PRECOR TREADMILL – If you know anything about me, you know that I will do almost any form of exercise – I step, cycle, hike, cross country ski, hell I’ll freakin’ hoola hoop and zumba dance and generally make a spectacle out of myself in the name of exercise, but I don’t run. I just hate running with a passion, although before anyone gets offended, I do respect runners immensely! So why am I telling you this? First of all, because I fast-paced walked on this thing on a moderate incline; and second, I wanted to hate the calorie indicator on the treadmill….but I couldn’t. It was definitely the most accurate – my Polar FT60 indicated 237 calories burned in a half hour; the Treadmill showed 219 calories. MACHINE UNDERESTIMATED CALORIES BURNED BY 36 CAL/HOUR.
Now, obviously, it’s not the exact numbers that matter, as each person is different and will burn a different number of calories based on all the factors mentioned above. That being said, this gives you a good indication that you can’t rely on most machines’ calorie indicators if you are keeping track of calories in vs. out. Hope you enjoyed this little “experiment” as much as I did!Read More