Friday, February 29, 2008

Cardio Machine Readout Accuracy

Do you diligently check your calories burned at the end of a treadmill, elliptical, rower or stationary bike workout? If so, you need to know that those calculations can be highly inaccurate.

Some machines determine calories used based only on the resistance level and the amount of time exercised. Although some machines do include your weight and age in the calculation, even those may offer only a rough estimate at best because of other factors not taken into consideration. For example, using a machine incorrectly by leaning on the handrails will result in a reading that is higher than the actual number of calories burned. Another factor is the fitness level of the exerciser, which will also affect the number of calories burned during a workout.

Readouts can be somewhat useful as a measure of progress or as a basis of comparison, if you use the same type of equipment correctly and consistently. For example, if the number of calories burned reads higher now than when you started using a certain machine a month ago, you are obviously working harder and progressing. Or, if today's readout after walking on the treadmill is lower than usual, your workout was probably less intense than it normally is.

Another factor to consider is the type of workout you're doing. Although a vigorous cardio interval session will most likely register as fewer calories burned than a steady state workout, because of the intensity of a challenging interval workout your body's metabolism will remain elevated for hours after you've stopped exercising. This is commonly referred to as "afterburn" and is pretty much non-existent after low intensity exercise.

So, don't get hung up on the calorie readout on the cardio machines; they're most likely inaccurate anyway. However, if you do want to use them as a basis of comparison just make sure you are sizing up exercise on the same machine, performed in a similar manner.


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