Is Your Exercise Equipment Lying to You?

Separate Fact from Fiction with Cardio Machine Calorie Counters

Close up image of a cardio machine’s calorie counter read out

 
Ever feel like you’re being cheated? 

No, we’re not talking about your financial advisor skimming money off of your taxes, your boyfriend getting home 3-hours after his shift, or a work subordinate trying to usurp you at the next meeting. Ok first of all, calm it down professor paranoid. No, we’re talking about something else, something far more treacherous, deceptive, and menacing. 

We’re talking of course about — wait for it — calorie counters on cardio machines!!!! (Cue scary music: bum bum buuuuum.) Ok, it might not seem like that big of a problem. But imagine you’re busting your butt on a treadmill, soaked in sweat with your heart beating out of your chest, when suddenly you look down and see ‘Calories Burned: 7’. You immediately get discouraged, jump off the machine, and make your way to the nearest donut shop to tell your problems to an apple fritter. 

Or imagine the opposite scenario: you’re on a different machine, casually going through the motions, barely breaking a sweat as you watch the Real Housewives of Duluth (or something). And you do this day in and day out because the calorie reader is flailing around the bajillion mark, so you decide to congratulate yourself with a 2000 calorie banana split only to later learn… that machine lied to me! 

In both of these situations, the lies and deceit of certain cardio machines may lead to real fitness fatigue and failure. At Studio SWEAT onDemand, it’s our mission to encourage people to get fit, healthy, and happy (and to furiously annihilate anything that discourages people from doing so). So with that in mind, we’re gonna take a look at the accuracy of different cardio machines’ calorie counters, and give you some alternative options to get a crystal clear image of your caloric carnage.

Woman working out atop an Elliptical machine in a gym

The Pretty Little Liar: Ellipticals

Ok, we’re starting off with the most conspicuous of the bunch: the charming, charismatic, and crushingly dishonest Elliptical. Released in the mid-90s, it exploded on the fitness scene with a too-good-to-be-true sales pitch — no impact or difficult range of motion, just smooth sailing and easy calorie burn. But of course it was too good to be true: recent studies have set the Elliptical’s accuracy up to 42% off. (OFF, mind you!)

Two fit women working out on stair climbers inside of a fitness studio

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True, But Up to You: Stair Climbers

When it comes to the accuracy of the stair machine, the bottom line will ultimately be true or not, based on your performance. When using a stair climber, many of us tend to lean forward and take shorter steps as we get a bit fatigued. That might sound pretty harmless, but those two actions can reduce caloric burn by as much as 50%!!! However, keeping your form correct with large strides and a neutral back will give you accuracy of around 20% margin of error (not perfect, but not too bad). 

Two men running on treadmills in a modern gym

The Solid Contender: Treadmills

If you’re a champion of the conveyor belt, we’ve got good news: treadmills are pretty darn accurate. If you make sure to enter your correct personal information into the machine before starting (age and weight most importantly), and keep your hands off of those handrails, you’re getting a perfectly respectable 15% margin of error.

Studio SWEAT onDemand fitness Spin bike trainer Cat Kom on an indoor cycle

The Clear Winner: Indoor Cycling Bikes

Topping the list for accuracy, and our favorite cardio machine, the mighty Spin bike! Because indoor cycling keeps a lot of your body weight supported on the machine, it’s able to get a more accurate reading of your calories burned. In fact, it’s widely considered to be the king of all cardio machines, with its calorie-counting accuracy hovering at only about 7% margin of error. For this reason (and oh so many others) Spinning is winning. 

How to Get the Truth on Calorie Burn

Now, before we send you off thinking you know everything there is to know on the subject, here are a few tips to get your actual burn: 

1) Machines’ calorie-counting accuracy will always be dependent on its age — getting more inaccurate as the years go by. 

2) A far more accurate measurement of your caloric output while working out is by using your own digital fitness trackers and heart monitors –  you can find some of our favorites here.

3) In the end, you don’t want to base your entire exercise routine, fitness motivation, and sense of achievement on a single number. 

Instead, getting fit is all about developing a deeper, more long-term commitment to your health and well-being. And the best way to do that? With an All Access Pass from Studio SWEAT onDemand. We offer an exhaustive and expansive library of virtual fitness classes, all taught by the most passionate trainers you’ll care to meet. And our global fitness community just happens to be the tightest, sweetest, and most encouraging family you’ll find. Sign up for a 7-Day Free Trial today, and get started on your fitness journey with us!

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