Calories are fuel for your body. Although they are essential, calories turn into fat if not utilized and controlled. If you’re a treadmill user, the calories burned gauge can be a huge motivating instrument in helping you achieve your weight and health goals. But how accurate are they? Let’s unpack a few key considerations you may want to consider before hanging your hat on these machine readings.
How Calorie Counters Work
Calorie counters on a treadmill work on a set of pre-programmed calculations based on averages. These averages are determined through the results of various tests conducted by the manufacturer in a controlled environment, using people of different weights, ages, gender, etc.
The basic treadmill counter will use the weight you input and compare it to your pace while applying average values to the other variables to produce a result. Higher-end treadmills may ask you for a few more variables, such as gender and age, which will be factored into the calculation to provide a more “accurate” result.
Factors That Influence Calorie Count
Burning calories during a workout are influenced by several factors, which, as mentioned, are either based on averages or do not take these into consideration altogether. We will look at some of these in more detail below.
Fitness level – A person who has just started working out will generally have a lower level of fitness than someone working out more frequently over a longer period. This person will burn calories faster than someone who’s built up a higher fitness level.
Walking versus jogging – The body generally burns more calories per minute jogging than walking. However, people walk or jog at different paces, and the machine cannot identify if the user is walking briskly or jogging slowly. This will have an impact on the reading that the machine displays.
Using handrails – If you’re new to using the treadmill, you’ve probably realized it isn’t as easy as it seems for the first few sessions. It takes some time to find your stride and balance. Using the handrails lowers the intensity of your workout. Similarly, if you hop on the foot rails for a short break or to regain your balance, the machine is again unable to identify this to alter the calculation accordingly.
Workout environment – Factors such as warmer room temperature and higher oxygen levels also play a key role in how your body burns calories. Similar to the above reasons, treadmills cannot take these into account in their calculations.
Are There Any Alternatives?
Before you lose all hope, a few alternative products may help you keep track of your calories somewhat more accurately. It’s worth mentioning that while none of these options can guarantee 100% accurate results, they do use more user-specific variables in their calculation and tracking.
Wearable fitness trackers such as smartwatches are advancing rapidly. With modern and sleek designs being released continuously, these products are gaining more popularity not just for their sophisticated technology but as fashion accessories too. A good quality wearable fitness tracker is probably your best option for accurately tracking the total distance you cover in a given period and at an average pace.
Mobile phone applications are another alternative you may want to consider. With the plethora of downloadable options on the internet, it is good to do some research before deciding on one to use on an ongoing basis. Some of the better applications provide you with additional helpful functions.
An example of one such function is where the user can input a list of all the food and drinks they consume in a day. The application uses that information to calculate their total calorie intake and the amount of workout time required to burn the excess. These applications also allow the user to set and track specific fitness goals, which is particularly handy over a longer period.
If you’re set in your ways and aren’t a fan of these gadgets and tech, then a simple alternative would be to try and use a more advanced treadmill. Look for features that allow you to input more information that is specific to you. Some of those more advanced models ask you for information like age, gender, and level of fitness in addition to your weight. More information gathered and used in the calculation will, in turn, help achieve a more accurate result.
Treadmill calorie counters are not 100% accurate and will only give you a rough estimate. They cannot account for every variable that impacts the final figure calculation and therefore cannot solely be depended on as an accurate source of information.
This information should be used as a means to track your progress over a period by taking note of the number of calories you burned from one workout to the next and adjusting the intensity or length of your workouts as your fitness improves and according to your body’s
reaction to this improvement.