Friday, April 17, 2009

How accurate are calorie counters on exercise machines?

07:55 AM PDT on Thursday, April 16, 2009
SEATTLE - If you work out on exercise machines, watching those calories burned can be a great motivator.

See Video

But have you wondered how accurate those calorie counters are on those machines? If you don't enter specific information, chances are it's calculating the calories for a very fit man.

When you're clipping along on an exercise machine and you see your calories burned climbing, you might feel like you're being freed from your last bad meal.

"I look at it because then I think, oh great, I just used up my pumpkin scone," said Laurie Reed, exerciser.

But just how accurate are the calories burned? Well, pretty accurate if you are one body type.

"The calorie count that it's going to read out is going to be based on a 154 pound man," said Tim Koffler, fitness director with the Seattle Athletic Club. "So in order to get your calorie count the most accurate, we're going to put in as much information as we can."

Koffler says to increase accuracy, you have to give the machine as much personal information as possible. The most accurate machines will ask you your gender, age and weight. And when you type that weight, it's tempting, but don't underestimate.

And putting a little variety in your workout helps keep the calorie count honest too because you don't want to get too good at just one thing.

"So if you jump on elliptical, used to going 40 minutes, 5 days a week, in about 4-6 weeks your body becomes efficient at doing that so it requires less energy to do it," said Koffler.

In order to keep that calorie counter the most accurate, don't lean on the handles of the exercise machine. That can reduce the number of calories you burn by 50%.

Again, you can lie about your weight on your driver's license, but not on the exercise machine. Entering your correct weight will help the machine keep track of your calories. And mixing up your workout will translate into a more accurate calorie count on your machine.

And in order to mimic walking or running outdoors, the treadmill elevation needs to be set at least at level one.