How Do Treadmill Calorie Counters Really Work, and Are They Accurate?
Westend61 / GettyWhile running the treadmill, take your eyes off the television for a moment and peer down at the calorie counter. Every treadmill has one, but do they work and if so, how accurate are they?
Well, they’re not as accurate as they should be, according to Amanda Basham, an iFit trainer who conducts online fitness sessions using a NordicTrack treadmill. “There are definitely some inaccuracies with those,” Basham says about a bulk of treadmills’ calorie counters on the market today. “The treadmills base the calorie burn on height and weight, but they don’t factor in muscle mass. So, if two people of the same weight, but different body fat percentage, run at the same speed, then it will say they’re burning the same amount of calories.”
And that’s just not factual, according to Basham. “In reality, the person with less body fat would be burning more calories because muscle mass requires more energy,” she continues.
Calorie counters are supposed to use your weight as a foundation for tracking the amount of calories you’re burning throughout your treadmill run. The problem with that is not all treadmills ask for your weight, using an automatic go-to weight instead. In addition, the accuracy of many treadmills’ calorie counters is further thrown askew when people grip onto and lean on the machines’ handrails. (We’ve all been guilty of this, right?)
Fit to Burn
Basham pinpoints another key issue with treadmill calorie counters, saying they don’t take someone’s fitness level into consideration. “Someone who is more fit will burn less because their body is more efficient,” she says. “However, muscle mass comes back into play and the more fit person may have more muscle mass.”
That being said, if you’re looking for a sharpened, more accurate calorie burn calculation, Basham believes that the best way is to wear a heart rate monitor.
“This still isn’t 100 percent accurate,” she says, “but it’s the most accurate.”