At the gym, exercise machines are extremely popular. Treadmills, elliptical equipment, and stationary bikes are great places to get an aerobic workout indoors (and usually watch TV at the same time). Most machines are now electronic, offering an interface where you select a program or set it to manual. The small screen charts your course with distance covered and, what most people concentrate on, the number of calories burned. But can it all be believed?
Here is a story of important health tips for those carefully scanning the figures on a machine.
When you attend a spinning class for 45 minutes and the bike readout says you just burned 850 calories, it might be hard to believe. In fact, it is doubtful you can trust the calorie readouts on these machines at all. Experts say that people exaggerate the number of calories they burn — and it’s because of these electronic readouts.
The gym machines have fancy displays and the graphs look official. But, despite the looks, it is essentially impossible to accurately gauge how many calories you just burned in the last 30 minutes. Often the machines extrapolate information based on heart rate, but this is not easily translated into calories burned.
(Plus: Don’t miss a story on what you should eat after working out: What You Must Eat After Exercising.)
What’s worse is that the rate at which each body burns calories is not the same. You can be the same weight, height, gender, and fitness level as the next person, but burn more (or less) calories doing the exact same workout. Say the average for one particular exercise is 100 calories. Well, for that, the number of calories you burn will range from 70 to 130. So if two people go to both ends of that equation, one person burns nearly double the amount the other one does!
Genetics plays a role in all this. Also, the more your body is familiar with an exercise, the fewer calories it will use up. When you get used to the bike or the treadmill, you exercise more efficiently. (This suggests you should rotate equipment to keep your body unaccustomed.) Also, if you are exercising moderately, your metabolic rate might make 30% of the calories you think you are burning evaporate. Finally, if you hang on to the bars of the equipment, you might be losing only half the possible calories. (So don’t exercise hanging onto the bars!)
In any event, trusting the cardio machines will not get you a rough estimate on calories. Combined with other factors mentioned, they are machines and may not be calibrated correctly. One machine may be different than another, just like our bodies. Especially if two different companies made them.