Fitness,  Other

Fitness Machines – How Accurate are Their Calorie Counters?

So, I am a huge gym enthusiast.  I started going to lose some weight and gain a more healthy lifestyle.  Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t always loved the gym…I used to either want to die or go home early. And those fitness machines sometimes made me want to scream!

Girl on a fitness machine

However, I put my mind to getting fit, and stayed and kept working out.  And, I’m still here, phew! This girl below isn’t me… but she’s very much like me when I first started going to the gym. Oh, how things have changed!

Girl with weights screaming
Image credit:

I have really bad knees, so the gym turned out to be a good friend to me!  It was much easier to hop on the elliptical and run than try to kill myself running outside.  

Also, I could use the weights to strengthen my knees!  After running on the elliptical for a while, and seeing the calories I’d burned, I felt awesome about my work.  But then I started to wonder: “how accurate are the calorie counts on fitness machines?” 

Girls on fitness machines

I looked into it and read these thing over and over again:

  • Using a  heart rate monitor  is the most effective in calculating the amount of calories burned 
  • Fitness machines are set based off of a 150 pound person
  • Calorie counts are not accurate

So, seeing that was pretty upsetting. I wanted to think I was making a HUGE difference in my weight loss.  As with everything, knowledge is power. I needed to find answers.  

Luckily I stumbled upon this article from  And with my newfound knowledge I was once again a happy gym-goer!  Now this girl has the right attitude!

girl running on a treadmill

Which fitness machines are the most accurate?

Now, you need to know that I am not an expert at anything mechanical.  This includes but is not limited to: fitness machines, computers, toasters, radios, alarm clocks, microwaves, GPS navigation things….etc etc.  

However, the following is the knowledge that I’ve gained from in regards to the gym machines we all know and love/hate.

  • The Elliptical machines have the least accurate calorie counters.
  • Leaning forward on machines can decrease the accuracy of a calorie read by 50%
  • Treadmills  are pretty accurate calorie counters.
  • Stationary Bikes are the most accurate calorie counters.

Great!  That’s some very useful information.  But what does it mean?

What have I learned about fitness machines?

What I learned from the information I’ve been researching all day is this:

  • Heart rate monitors  are the way to go! I need to break down and just go get one! 
  • Fitness machines are not 100% accurate
  • Even though they’re not 100% accurate, they still burn calories!
  • Setting your weight lower may help combat the inaccuracy of the machines (aka the number you see may be closer to the actual number of calories you burn)
  • Leaning on the machines does you a disservice!  Get the most out of your workout by standing tall and engaging those core muscles!

heart rate monitors

Why get a heart rate monitor?

I know it’s may be a little expensive to get a heart rate monitor…but my health and your health are worth the investment!  After researching here are some reasons I now want to get a heart rate monitor:

  • I will know the exact number of calories I’m burning.  It may not seem like fitness machines are wicked exaggerating liars, but I want to know exact numbers.  Weight loss is Game.  It’s a numbers game, and you can win if you have the right numbers.
  • I go hard when I go to the gym.  That may seem like a silly reason to get a heart rate monitor, but if you’re in too high of a heart rate zone for too long, you could be doing more harm than good!  This article taught me that, and I won’t forget it!
  • Knowledge is power.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Why wonder, when you could have the exact data!

I’ve learned a lot today about accuracy and fitness machines, and I hope you have too!  Good luck with your workout and maybe one day, I’ll see you at the gym!

Admin note: This post first appeared on the blog in September of 2013. I have updated the post to add more information and new photos.  Hope you enjoy!

Pin this pot about fitness machines for later.

Would you like a reminder of this post about the accuracy of fitness machines? Just pin this image to one of your fitness boards on Pinterest. How accurate are fitness machines?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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