Calories are our source of energy. But if we don’t burn them, they will eventually turn to fat. Keeping track of how many calories we burn during exercise can help us manage weight and health.
There are a lot of options available to help us keep track of our calories, including fitness trackers, heart rate monitors, manual calculations, and of course, the panels on our treadmills.
I am a faithful runner who frequently bases my running goals on the calorie counter. But as I use the treadmill to improve my running, it got me thinking: How Accurate Are Treadmill Calorie Counters?
Should you trust it, or are there better alternatives to keeping track of your calorie burn? For any fellow calorie counters who are interested in knowing if you can count on your treadmill to give you an accurate calorie count, this article is for you.
Basic Calorie Count
Calories enter our body through the food we eat. When we are active they work as fuel, feeding our system with energy.
When counting how many are burned during a run, the most basic way is to estimate your pace and compare it to your body weight. This gives you a rough calculation of calories lost per minute. Now multiply that number with the length of your workout, and you should have your approximate count of lost calories.
How accurate are calorie counters on a treadmill?
How a treadmill counts your calories depends on the type of machine you're using.
Most basic treadmills will use the straightforward method mentioned above, of comparing your weight to the pace.
However, high-tech treadmills dig a bit deeper. These will likely ask about your age and gender. Some may even incorporate your heart rate into the equation. Once you input this information, it will be taken into account and result in a more accurate calorie burn calculation. Here you can find an overview of higher-end treadmills.
Are These Reliable?
The numbers a treadmill will show are more often than not only rough estimates.
A treadmill is not able to "see the whole picture." To accurately estimate how many calories are lost, more factors such as fitness level, body composition, body size and age should be taken into account.
For example, a treadmill will likely show the same numbers for an advanced runner and a beginner who weigh the same and are running at the same pace and distance. In fact, the newbie will likely burn more calories.
A digital calorie counter found on a treadmill will generally give a more accurate estimate than if you tried to count manually. Even so, it is safe to say that a treadmill isn't very precise, since not all factors are taken into account.
Why Other Factors Matter
As you advance through your treadmill journey, you'll likely notice a vast improvement in your stride and efficiency.
For nearly all of us, when we take our first run or walk on a treadmill, we tend to step all over the place, bouncing as we stride. This takes extra energy, and you actually burn more calories than your treadmill thinks.
As a new treadmill runner you will likely tire a lot quicker due to the inefficient stride. But luckily as your skills advance, you'll probably learn how to be more efficient.
This difference in efficiency is an important consideration to take into account when counting burned calories, which a treadmill simply can't predict.
What Are the Options?
The truth is, there are other options to a treadmill calorie counter. These include wearable fitness trackers, and apps where you input all of your food and activity to track calories in and calories out.
Choices will generally depend on your personal preferences and your goals. If you are looking for a tool which can give a boost to your weight loss journey, a fitness tracker may be your best option.
If you don't want to fiddle with apps or fitness watches, try to find a treadmill which uses a more advanced technology to track your calorie burn. Ideally, this would be one which takes more factors into account, such as age, gender, weight and heart rate.
Some advanced treadmills are able to synchronize with an app in your phone. This enables you to record your progress and get a better estimate of your burned calories.
Wearable Fitness Trackers
Wearable fitness trackers are a great option. Not only do they look nice and sleek, but they also do their job!
Many of these are able to track your heart rate. Personally, I tend to prefer a wearable because it is on me most of the time, monitoring my heart rate and steps. This gives me an idea of my resting pulse and how many calories are being burned, even while inactive.
Most wearable fitness trackers take more important factors into account when calculating calorie burn. Some even come with an app which enables you to log your intake of food as well as progress.
Treadmill calorie counters will only give you a rough estimate. If you are tracking your calories in and calories out for overall fitness or weight loss, your treadmill counter should probably not be used as the only source of information.
But hey, it all depends on what you feel is best. If you don’t need too much precision, the estimate from your treadmill might be more than enough for you.
Counting calories and keeping track of how many are burned during exercise is an excellent way to reach your fitness goals. Since your treadmill isn't that reliable when it comes to calorie count, consider some of the other options available.