Well Being

The Calorie Counter On Your Treadmill Is Lying To Make You Feel Better About Yourself

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woman on a treadmill

You just finished a long workout at gym, and you're feeling pretty good about the 400 calories you've sacrificed to the treadmill gods. As you mop up your sweat for the next person to use the machine, though, you start to wonder: did I really burn as much as the little counter says I did? Unfortunately, one expert seems to think… not. Women's Health chatted with an exercise physiologist, Greg Justice, who has not only an awesome last name, but also some depressing news about expended calories. According to Justice,

Most cardio machines use your weight and age to calculate the calorie burn for the average person meeting those two conditions. What it's not always accounting for: your [sex], height, body fat percentage, and fitness level.

That makes sense. It sucks, but it makes sense. He goes on to explain how easily two very different bodies could get the same calorie reading from an exercise machine:

If two women both weigh 135 pounds but one has 20 percent body fat and the other has 35 percent body fat, for example, they're not going to burn the same number of calories when they do the same exact workout.

Interesting. Calories are a difficult thing to measure when you do have all the information present, and it would take way too long for a communal machine at the gym to gather all the necessary info about your body. Just like it's always safe to assume that chain restaurants are underestimating the calories they list on their menus, it's a good idea to take the calorie counter on your treadmill with a grain of salt. On the bright side, there's a formula that can get us closer to an accurate idea of how many calories we drop with each workout, and you can see it here. On the not-so-bright side, you might have to bring a calculator to the gym and look like a complete weirdo. Choices, choices.

H/T Women's Health // Photo: Shutterstock