Recent studies display cardio devices are much less than accurate about the variety of calories you"re actually burning


*
(Shutterstock/imtmphoto)
This article originally showed up on AlterNet.

You are watching: How accurate are exercise machine calorie counters

*
~ a workout, it’s a good feeling to check the calorie respond to on your device and view how many you’ve melted off. But that killer workout might not have been as successful as girlfriend thought. Current studies have displayed that cardio machines and also fitness trackers aren’t fully accurate and some may even be method off the mark.

In testing performed in ~ UC mountain Francisco"s Human power Center, researchers discovered that cardio machines overestimated calorie burn by 19% on average. The elliptical to be the biggest culprit, overestimating calorie burn through a whopping 42%. The treadmill overestimated burned calories by 13% and also the stairs climber through 12%. The stationary bike had actually the shortest margin that error, however even that an equipment overestimated calorie burn through 7%.

The equipments are inaccurate because most just account for age and weight. Georgie Fear, a registered dietitian because that Precision Nutrition, says, "estimating calorie output can be one inexact science" due to the fact that other factors like body fat, body temperature and also hormonal alters come into play. These contents are very challenging to track because they are constantly fluctuating. Are afraid says that machines become less reliable as they obtain older, and calorie burn readout is less accurate at greater intensities.

According come Christine Luff, running and jogging professional at About.com, calorie counts top top treadmills don’t account for your kind and to run efficiency. For example, a brand-new runner will burn more calories 보다 an knowledgeable runner since the new runner there is no perfected her form. “The beginner"s inefficient side-to-side movement and also bouncing up and also down expends much more energy than the proficient runner"s reliable stride,” Luff says.

As a rule, Luff claims a human being with much less body fat and an ext muscle massive burns an ext calories every workout. Therefore, a 160-pound woman v 35% body fat will actually burn more calories than a 160-pound woman through 20% body fat, also if lock both operation at the exact same pace top top a treadmill. However, the calorie respond to will erroneously display the same variety of calories burned for both women.

Unfortunately, numerous of us don’t have the alternative of utilizing a new device that might work better; we are at the mercy that whatever devices is available at our gyms. Usage the calorie respond to on cardio machines as a benchmark and always factor in a margin that error. Don’t base her calorie input or consume extra calories based on the number provided.

For a more accurate assessment of calorie burn, fitness trackers such as Fitbit and Jawbone space a much better option. Not only do castle gauge how countless calories room burning during a single workout, they deserve to be worn every day come measure as whole energy expenditure.

But don’t simply buy any old fitness tracker there is no doing her homework. Detect the best fitness tracker varies relying on the type of practice you do and your details goals. Follow to both ConsumerSearch and also Consumer Reports, the clip-on Fitbit One is among the finest fitness trackers for tracking task that entails stairs. This particular an equipment performed well in side-by-side testing, accurately measure up calories and counting steps. ConsumerSearch states the Fitband Flex is “one the the most accurate fitness trackers on the market,” but unlike the Fitbit One, the doesn’t monitor stairs climbed due to the fact that it doesn’t contain one altimeter. However, the Fitband Flex deserve to track straightforward steps, calorie burn and the size of cardio-related activities. The Jawbone UP24 likewise falls in ~ the best-reviewed category. Although that can’t counting stairs either, experts say the UP24 is an extremely accurate in ~ tracking calories, steps, distance and active time.

But the concern remains, are fitness trackers—even those that earn the finest reviews—completely accurate or should we still allow for part margin of error? according to a brand-new York times article, a study carried out by Azusa Pacific University verified that fitness monitors—worn ~ above both the hip and wrist—accurately measured energy expenditure throughout higher-intensity activity, such as walking briskly on a treadmill. The gadgets were no so reliable once tracking lower-intensity tasks like clean a simulated kitchen or standing, falsely gauging them as physical immobility. ~ above the upper and lower reversal side, the armband monitor significantly overestimated the power expenditure on those same, less strenuous tasks.

Another study, conducted by Arizona State University, affiliated 74 adult attendees of various periods who wore an armband accelerometer and a portable oxygen-consumption gauge while engaging in cardio exercises like walking and jogging and performing day-to-day tasks such as lifting boxes and sweeping. When again, the armband measured an ext intense cardio exercise, like jogging, far an ext accurately than residential tasks favor sweeping. This study likewise found that the armband was totally off once measuring bike pedaling because no arm movement is involved.

John Jakicic, director of the physical task and weight management research facility at the college of Pittsburgh, further defines why activity trackers aren’t entirely accurate. First the scientific research behind countless of these assets remains a an enig to the public. "Most brand of trackers use proprietary algorithms and formulas that haven"t been separately tested in the lab and also they aren"t accessible to the public so it"s difficult to know just how they are recording their information," Jakicic says.

Trackers that rely solely on one accelerometer aren’t totally accurate since estimations of calories, steps and mileage will certainly fluctuate depending whereby the an equipment is worn top top the body. A tracker worn on the wrist will monitor walking or running relatively accurately because there is wrist activity involved. However, it won’t be useful to someone using a stationary bike v his hands relaxing on the handlebars.

Jakicic recommends utilizing a more advanced tracker. Vice versa, an accelerometer is frequently imprecise since it gathers data based upon movement and direction, “a device that incorporates information around say, GPS, body heat and heart rate, is most likely smart enough to understand the difference in between sitting in a chair and also cranking far on a cycle,” Jakicic says.

See more: Firefighters’ Fateful Choices: How Contained Is The Woolsey Fire

Even if fitness trackers aren’t entirely accurate all the time, they are still worth using, an especially during high-intensity cardio task because they generally excel at correctly estimating calorie burn, distance and also energy expenditure in that capacity.