Are treadmill calorie counters misleading?

Reported by Casey Roman - email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - While a good sweat and record breaking calorie count on the treadmill is rewarding, the calorie counters could be misleading.

Many people who are eager to get going will hop on a treadmill or an elliptical machine and press the quick start button.  If that's your routine, you many not want to put much weight on the calorie counters.

"If you just get on and hit quick start and then go for 20 minutes, the amount of calories that it says you've burned is not going to be accurate at all," said Master Trainer Kyle Castrovinci from the Wilmington Athletic Club.

Fitness companies use formulas to estimate what an average person burns, but the formulas vary by company and machine.

"They don't know who you are," said Castrovinci.  "They're just basing it on the speed you're going and the resistance you have the machine set on.  It's a very average count."

Though equations try to guess how many calories the average person would burn, the machine doesn't know if you are a former sprinter or former couch potato.

"It's so important to enter in all that information - your age, height, weight for it to be accurate," said Castrovinci.

Machinery is not the only culprit of faulty counting.  Holding onto the handle bars of a machine reduces the burn by 40-50%.  If the count is increasing, so should your effort.

Trainers say judge your rate of exertion to really test your workout.

"One to ten. So, if you're working out - ten being the hardest, one being the easiest - you should be between a six and an eight," said Castrovinci.

Hard work and dedication always count, even if the machines can't.

Research shows that counters for treadmills are the most accurate.  Any program or heart rate monitor that allows you to input your own statistics will be the closest estimate.