Did you know that your cardio machines are lying to you? In this video, I am going to show you how the cardio machines you are using are incorrectly displaying the number of calories you are burning. In fact, the number of calories displayed may be grossly overestimated. I am also going to show you which machines are the worst at doing this, and which ones you might want to spend your time on instead.
First thing is first, if you are using cardio as your main method of creating a caloric deficit to lose weight, you are making a big mistake. The fact of the matter is that nothing is going to be as effective of creating a caloric deficit as keeping your nutrition in check. I talk about it all the time; you can’t outrun a bad diet. Make your caloric cuts through your diet to get the best results when trying to lose weight.
Where do the inaccuracies sit when it comes to the caloric display? Well, if the machine is not asking you for your weight, it’s already off to a bad start. The cardio machine is calculating the caloric burn based on something called a MET. This unit is multiplied based on the activity, but is calculated using a standard number for weight input; 154 lbs. If your weight is different, then your caloric readout is inaccurate!
The next way that your cardio machines are lying to you is by fudging the math a little bit. How so? Well, the number displayed is based on including something called the REE; the amount of calories you burn at rest. By including this number, the machine is inflating the number of calories burned. This will make you think that you are burning more calories and doing more work than you actually are.
How else is are they lying to you? Well, this one comes from something you are likely doing that the machine can’t account for and that is your posture. By leaning over and resting on the handles of a bike or a treadmill, then you are actually unweighting yourself and doing less work. This can actually lead to a 50% difference in the calories you think you are burning. The fix is easy; stand up straight and perform the exercise with good posture.
Next, you have to pay attention to the range of motion when you are performing the work on the cardio machine. You would obviously be performing more work by taking the exercise through the full range of motion as opposed to an abbreviated one. It’s no different when it comes to cardio. On a step mill: taking short, choppy steps instead of driving the foot down and getting to full hip extension. Look at an elliptical machine; it is likely locking you into an abbreviated range of motion based on the design of the machine itself. When it comes to a bike, standing up is how you would be achieving full range of motion while further weighting yourself to perform more work meaning more calories burnt.
So, what cardio machines are lying to you the least? The stationary bike is the most accurate, overestimating the calories burnt by only 7%. The mathematical equations used to measure force output (watts) in combination with a weight input leads to a more accurate reading. Next up, is the stair master with a 12% overestimation on the calories burnt. Second to last is the treadmill, off by 13-20% which is compounded by the poor posture often included with this machine. Lastly, the most inaccurate of all these machines is the elliptical – a whopping 42%! Some of this is due to discrepancies in the range of motion from machine to machine.
What can we do to nullify the inaccuracies of the machines? Well, for starters, we can look to other cardio machines. Which ones we should be focusing our efforts on is based simply on the amount of effort you need to perform them. For example; using an air-bike, a rowing machine, or ski-ERG. They may require more work, but the more work done, the more calories burnt, so these are the best cardio machine options.
If you want to stick to the machines you are using right now but want to make it more accurate; try to find a machine that asks for you to input your weight to give a reading that is closer to the truth. You can also gauge the work you are doing by your heart rate (the higher it is, the more effort you are expending). Finally, you can take the output the display is reading and cut it in half and use that in your caloric intake guidelines.
Don’t think that your wearable calorie counters are all that accurate either with a 20-96% inaccuracy range!
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