How Accurate Are Treadmill Calorie Counters? What You Need to Know

Natalie Cecconi
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The Basics of Calories

Our basic understanding of how food turns into energy comes from observing the behavior of animals in the wild. When we see insects and mammals foraging for food and digesting it, we get a general idea of how much energy is stored in particular foods.

But the body is not always so simple. After all, it is not just a tank. It can store different types of energy in different ways, and depending on the activity that you are doing, you may not burn all the stored energy.

There are two types of energy we are concerned with in a treadmill calorie counter. They are:

Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC): The extra energy that your body requires to go back to its equilibrium after your muscles have done their job. Think of this post-exercise state as similar to the effect a runner feels after finishing the race.

Exercise Related Energy Expenditure (EREE): The energy required for muscle work during the activity.

As far as exercise related exercise calorie burn, which is probably what you are most curious about, there are two basic types of EREE. They are:

Glycogen-Burning Energy Expenditure (GOE): The energy burned when glycogen, or stored sugar, is converted into glucose. Glycogen can be burned very quickly but also burns faster than any stored fat.

What Determines the Calories Burned on a Treadmill?

The most obvious factor that determines how many calories you burn on a treadmill is the pace you set. If you set it at a high pace, you will of course burn more calories than if you took it easy. But there are other factors that determine how many calories you burn on a treadmill, too.

For instance, fitness level affects how many calories you burn – the fitter you are, the more easily your body will burn calories, even at lower paces.

Another factor that has a big impact on the number of calories your body burns on a treadmill is weight. Even if your weight is the same, the heavier you are, the more energy is required to run (heavier body = heavier legs).

The speed you are running at isn’t the only difference between a slow jog and a fast sprint. The faster you run, the less time your body spends in contact and absorbing force of the ground.

If you are burning the same amount of calories, you will be pushing very different sorts of muscles doing a fast sprint as opposed to staying at a slow run.

Also, wind resistance will be higher at a higher speed. The faster you run, the more you would need to tilt your body forward to compensate for the force of the air against you.

How Accurate Are Treadmill Calorie Counters? Things You Need to Know

A treadmill is a popular piece of equipment for home gym.

If you are someone who’s looking to lose weight and boost your cardiovascular health, then the addition of a treadmill in your home gym is a must.

However, just because treadmill running is exercise does not automatically make it a good weight loss option. In fact, a lot of people who begin using treadmills as part of a weight loss regime end up disappointed because they do not lose as much weight as they’d hoped.

Now, if you are looking to lose weight with your treadmill, you need to understand one thing – the treadmill does not know what you eat.

It does not create any deficit in your calorie intake. As a result, the calories you burn on a treadmill do not automatically translate to weight loss if you aren’t closely monitoring your diet.

This may seem like a bitter pill to swallow. Understandably, there are few things more enticing than the idea of simply stepping on a treadmill and losing weight.

But if you do not pair your exercise sessions with a proper diet plan, you will be disappointed. You will either lose weight very slowly, stop losing weight, or actually gain weight.

Heart Rate and Treadmill

So, what happens to all of those said calories that you’ve burned while working out on a gym machine like the treadmill? Many would say that these calories go straight to the hips.

Some might think that they are flushed out through sweating.

But the fact is, 80% to 90% of the calories that you burn will go into your normal body functions, including breathing, circulation, digestion, and even thinking.

If you want to get better results from your work out, then you want the calories to be used to convert your whole body into a process that is doing work.

This requires that your body needs to be in a certain state of readiness. Ready to boost your metabolism, burn fat, build muscle, and improve overall health and fitness.

This State Is Achieved through Rest and Recovery…

And, this is one of the reasons you should consider monitoring your heart rate when exercising.

How accurately does the treadmill calorie counter calculate the amount of calories that you burn?

The actual calculation of calories burned is a complex process that involves an equation that combines your:

  • body weight,
  • resting metabolic rate,
  • heart rate, and

The duration and the intensity of your workout.

How to Boost Calorie Burning

Many people rely on a treadmill to help with weight loss. When it comes to using the treadmill for weight loss, calories burned are a big factor to consider. These days, it’s not enough to just estimate how much you’ve burned at the end of your workout.

Many treadmills come with a built-in calorie counter, which tracks and displays data as your workout progresses. Some even have a screen that shows a mini-representation of a runner on the belt, along with the current speed, calories burned, lap time, and whatever other stats you could ever want from a piece of equipment.

But the question remains: are you actually burning all those calories on the treadmill?

Some people will tell you that the calorie counter display on the treadmill is accurate. However, that’s just a myth!

Many calorie counters are not accurate when it comes to using a treadmill for calorie burning. Although the calorie counter estimates should be close enough to the actual number, keep in mind that treadmill counter estimates tend to overestimate the number of calories burned.

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