Counting Calories Accurately

Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - 9:19am

Some exercise machines are more accurate than others.

Is the calorie counter elliptical and other exercise machines accurate?

Possibly not as much as you think, unless you're Trini Callava.

“I don't think they're very accurate,” Callava said as she jogged on a treadmill at the University of Miami's wellness center.

At UM's nearby Laboratory for Sports Medicine and Motion Analysis, strength and conditioning director Brian Biagioli explained that when it comes calorie-burning counts, some exercise machines are more accurate that others.

“The elliptical trainer is one of the ones that has a tendency to over-predict your calories count,” Biagioli said. "One of the ways to make the elliptical more accurate is to actually use the arms in conjunction with the legs.”

Biagioli said there are two simple rules gym-goers can follow to maximize a workout and make the calorie count more reliable: first, avoid the quick start button, and use the manual program to enter weight instead.

The weight is an essential piece of information the machine needs to figure out how many calories you're burning, Bagioli said, “because it's calculating it based on work and that work is the speed of the action as well as how much you weigh because you're the resistance.”

A person who weighs more actually burns more calories doing the same thing, compared to someone who weighs less, he said.

Biagioli's second rule: never lean on the machine.

“The rails are there to maintain your position, but not to actually absorb your body weight. So if you lean 50 percent of your weight on the machine, you have to take 50 per cent of those calories away.”

Maintaining an upright posture will ensure exercisers burn more calories.

So will keeping one's heart rate between 75 to 90 percent of its maximum for 20 to 50 minutes, three times a week.

To figure out maximum heart rate, Biagioli says men and women should use different formulas.

A man should subtract his age from 220; a woman should multiply her age by .7 to come up with 70 percent of her weight, then subtract that number from 208.

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