Are Treadmills Accurate In Terms Of Calories Burned?

How accurate is a treadmill calorie counter? Should you rely on it? These questions bother fitness experts and enthusiasts to a whole different level. They want accurate data to stay on track and gain results for their hard work. You can find answers to these questions in this article.

If you are working on a treadmill with the primary purpose of losing weight, then a calorie counter is a must. When you lose 3500 calories, you shed almost one pound of your weight. Thereby, it is important to have a track of calories you burn in each session to know your workout progress and plan further sessions based on it. 

Almost all treadmills have this tool, but you cannot blindly rely on their readings. Some are inaccurate and the others might be closely accurate. It all depends upon the engineering of the device and the tools attached to it. 

Factors Required for Calculating Calories Burn

The total amount of calories burned does not depend upon a single factor. Instead, it requires several factors for an accurate amount. I have mentioned these factors below.  

User Weight

Weight is vital for accuracy here. Your body puts in efforts to move a certain distance, which results in calorie burn, leading to weight loss. The heavier you are the more calories you burn per km.

Speed

If you are covering a greater distance with a higher speed then you are burning calories not only through working out but also just by breathing. Thereby, speed plays an important role in determining the accurate calorie burn.

Distance

The farther you run the more calories you burn, simple! So it’s significant to calculate the distance traveled. You can also use the distance to find the speed in case you do not have it.

Heart Rate

During a workout, your lungs and heart are working equally hard as your limbs. They have to fulfill your oxygen requirements that exceed the normal range during a workout session. Therefore, your heart rate increases significantly during such a physically intense session the measurement of which also contributes to the calculation of calorie burn.

Motor-Powered Treadmills

Treadmills are motor powered. They feature an efficient motor and belt that reduces the accuracy of readings. It is suggested that a little incline can help you get the best results. 

Incline Level

Walking on a slope is harder than walking on a flat surface. Like the sloped surface, incline walking on treadmills offers a more intense workout than simple walking as they imitate walking uphill. So you burn more calories on an inclined treadmill.  

Why are Treadmill Calorie Counters Not Reliable?

Here are some of the most important reasons due to which you cannot depend on a treadmill’s calorie counter, including

  • Most treadmills are designed with a standard weight measurement for calorie calculation. They are not customized for the customers. Thereby, they calculate your calories burned with the pre-set weight. So if your treadmill does not ask for your weight before the workout, it’s not accurate.
  • The total amount of calories burned depends upon various factors that most treadmills do not consider when calculating the calorie results. For example, one may consider heart rate but not the incline level or the use of side rail. It results in accuracy and all you get is an estimate. 
  • Often during workouts, especially incline walking, users hold on the side rails for support. It transfers most of your weight on your arms and the handle and fails to calculate the right amount of calories burned.   
  • Sometimes you lose your data due to technical issues. So you need to keep a track of time, speed, and weight manually.

How to Get Reliable Readings?

So what should you do if your treadmill does not offer an accurate calorie counter? Well, there are different ways to get the closest readings.

  • Here is a little something you can do before buying a treadmill. Make sure that it calculates your workout stats based on your own weight and not on a standard measurement. This will ensure you accurate results as it will generate the workout data based on your current weight. Along with weight, you can also check the other factors it takes into consideration when calculating the calories. The more factors it takes the more accurate results it will offer. However, such treadmills are quite expensive.
  • You can calculate your calories burned through an online calculator. You’ll find many of these on the internet. They are mostly accurate because all they do is take information from you and apply formula. However, for that, you’ll have to keep a track of time, speed and distance, or any other factor that the calculator requires. It will provide you with the most accurate results.
  • Another very simple method is to calculate it manually. You’ll need your age, weight, heart rate while exercising, and time. Once you have all you can use the following formula given by Greg Justice, an exercise physiologist.

Calories Burned = [(Age x 0.074) – (Weight x 0.05741) + (Heart Rate during exercise x 0.4472) – 20.4022] x Time / 4.184

There is Still Hope….

Even if your treadmill’s calorie counter isn’t accurate for your body, you can still use it for your good. The calories burned it shows are accurate, which means you have a good idea of how much effort you have put into each workout session. For instance, if it shows you have burned 600 calories during a 60-minute walking session and the same amount is burned during a 30-minute running session, it indicates the same amount of effort put in for two different workouts. Thus, the total calorie loss is 1200.

You can use each measurement and try to increase it. If one day you lose 600 calories try losing 700-800 the other day. Therefore, despite not having the right results, you’ll have a good idea of your efforts and the more you need to put in.

Also, try to not use the side rail as it reduces the accuracy of your results. If you are using incline, increase the level slowly and ensure that you are in the right posture so that you can stay close to the right amount of calories burned without losing your balance or breaking a bone.  

Wrap up

So, are treadmills accurate for calories burned? Not really. Accuracy of data is mainly a relative aspect that depends on various factors. The more of these factors a treadmill considers, the more accurate results it offers. However, if you do not have an accurate calorie counter you can calculate manually or through an online calculator. You can also use the given ‘inaccurate’ data to keep going and improving. So you do not have an excuse to give the most important part –the workout, any unnecessary break.