For all the dieters out there, this is really disappointing news. You try so hard to add some quality exercise in your day, only to find that you are being duped by your exercise equipment.
Recently, the Human Performance Center at the University of California in San Francisco (HPC-UCSF) and Good Morning America put several fitness devices and equipment types to the test. HPC-UCSF specializes in a measuring human performance. They measure performance by measuring the amount of oxygen a person uses while exercising. Since oxygen is needed to burn fuels like fat, the amount of oxygen is directly linked to the amount of calories you use, making this tool are a very accurate way to measure exertion. The scientific name of this tool is a VO2 analyzer.
Good Morning America (GMA) and HPC-UCSF used the VO2analyzer to measure the calories a person used vs. the amount the equipment recorded. They tested a treadmill, stationary bike, stair climber, elliptical machine, and fitness watches. In all cases, the machines overestimated the calories burned by 20% (machines) to almost 30% (watches) Of the machines tested, the stationary bike was the most accurate, only overestimating the calories burned by 7%. The stair climber and the tread mill were roughly equal and overestimated calories by almost 15%. The elliptical was the worst. It overestimated the calories burned by over 40%.
The experts said that the overestimation was not surprising. Estimations are just that, estimates, but what was interesting was, the fact that none of the devices or machines recorded fewer. That’s not to say that the equipment manufacturers are shady, it’s just good to know that the machines are calibrated to be accurate when the machine is new and for an average person. Many factors can skew the results. A person’s height, age, fitness level, and percent body fat, all affect the VO2 data. Wear and tear on the machine can also affect the results since the computer was not calibrated to account for it. One could argue that the manufacturers should, but they don’t.
The bottom line is, you should assume that you are burning about 20% less than what you see on the screen, or 30% less than what you read on your watch. Alternatively, reduce your weight by the same amount, and then the read out should be more accurate.
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