Getting on that treadmill, elliptical trainer or exercise cycle many of us carefully look at the digital calorie counter built into the machine to see how many calories we have burnt. Based on that we do the math about whether we have burnt enough calories to set off the calories we have consumed during the day.
Yet, how accurate and reliable are these calorie counters?
Can we rely on them to tell us exactly how many calories we’ve burnt? Well, calorie counters may be a broad indication, but they are not really accurate.
While other parameters that the digital display shows;such as the distance covered, minutes spent on the machine, even the speed at which you work out and your heart rate, these could all be more accurate since these can be accurately recorded and displayed.
How do calorie counters work?
When it comes to the calorie counting function, this is really just a calculation based on the average person who works out on the machine.
It cannot and does not take into account one’s age, weight, BMI, fitness levels and so on. Even if one’s vital statistics are fed into the machine, it will give you only approximate results based on the general formula that the machine has been calibrated to work out.
Individual differences such as fitness levels, height, weight, age, body composition and other factors determine how many calories are burnt but calorie counters cannot take all of this into consideration. So depending upon the way that the different machines have been calibrated, they may give different readings on their calorie counters.
While one brand of treadmill says you have burnt X amount of calories by running on it for half an hour at a given speed and incline, another treadmill could give you a lower or higher reading for the same amount of exertion.
So are calories counters of any use at all?
Calorie counters are indicative and they can give you a broad idea. The sort of machines that require you to fill in personal details such as age, weight, height and so on, are perhaps more accurate than those which take into account only the speed of a workout and amount of time spent on the machine.
Further the calorie counters can provide some amount of satisfaction at the end of a workout; that a substantial amount of calories have been burnt even if the exact amount may not be clear. Also knowing this can act as motivation for a person to keep working out since the readouts can form a sort of progress report.