Every morning you crush your treadmill session and revel in the total number of calories burned glowing on the screen. Sorry to damper your post-workout spirits, but that number is probably incorrect.
POTENTIAL CAUSES OF INACCURATE READINGS
“Machines in gyms aren’t very accurate when it comes to calories burned, distance and other such metrics — they’re rough estimates at best,” says Brandon Mentore, a strength and conditioning coach from Philadelphia. “If two people weigh 200 pounds, but one is 5’3” and the other 6’1”, the amount of calories burned and the demand is vastly different.” This holds true even if the cardio equipment accounts for age and body weight.
Everyone has different metabolic rates as well. Mentore explains that athletes, for example, generally have a more efficient metabolisms that will actually burn fewer calories for the same effort and duration as someone with an average level of fitness.
The amount of calories you burn also depends on your lean tissue versus fat mass. “The leaner you are, the higher your metabolic rate and burn will be for the same effort and duration relative to someone who is less lean,” says Mentore.
In addition, the inaccuracy of caloric count could be related to the machine itself. Its age, calibration, elevation (for example, certain treadmill brands on a 0% grade are still not totally flat) and general maintenance upkeep all can keep it from displaying a more proper reading.
For those looking to lose or gain weight, these incorrect counts make it more challenging to try to gauge your daily caloric output. Most of us guess, but the odds of guessing correctly are slim to none.
THE SOLUTION? FITNESS WEARABLES
Wearables employ accelerometer and altimeter technology to detect your steps throughout a day — whether you are working out, or you’re simply walking from your car to work. Some trackers can even detect power output, making for super accurate results of your activity level.
“When it comes to calorie counting, wearable fitness gear has given the user the ability to track calories instantly, rather than rely on memory, providing better results and more reliable data,” says Junior Leoso, a personal trainer from San Diego. “It’s provided an entirely different aspect to training, as it’s given data to a world of people who typically only care about the end result.”
Wearables also come with other benefits to entice you to spike your movement levels. “[They] can give you reminders when you haven’t been active in a while, as well as keep track of your data, enabling you to do weekly and monthly outlooks on calories burned and overall activity level,” says Mentore.
These devices aren’t limited to a younger, more technologically-savvy generation either. According to Rock Health, the first venture fund dedicated to digital health, no demographic variables had any significant effect on digital health. Seniors and millennials are equally as likely to use wearables.
The market for this technology is astoundingly healthy. Statistica, a statistics portal for market data, says wearables are expected to reach a value of $19 billion in 2018, more than 10 times its value in 2013. In addition, 27% of consumers expect to purchase a wearable fitness device within the next 12 months (2016 data).
The behavior toward fitness technology has shifted. It’s no longer viewed as a passing trend, but something that’s here to stay. It’s empowered people to improve their lifestyle behaviors in unparalleled fashion — from walking more to monitoring sleep to lowering heart rates. The impactful data created by wearables appears to motivate people to take charge and produce positive changes, making them worth their cost.
We are lucky to live in an age when technology can help solve challenges. Expect wearable fitness to continue to make individuals healthier for decades to come.