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TOPIC: Accuracy of calories burned on an elliptical machine?

 
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January 16, 2011 9:43 PM
Hi...I've been using MFP since the New Year. I've entered various exercises in my diary and the number of calories burned seems reasonable for most. I used an elliptical machine yesterday and today at the gym. I did push myself, but I was surprised by how many calories MFP calculated for this exercise machine.

Have any of you used these machines regularly enough and had good weight loss success to know if the calorie burned calculations are accurate?

Since there does not appear to be a way to indicate effort, seems like the calculations could be way off.
January 16, 2011 9:45 PM
I find my actual burn (as measured by a HRM with a chest strap) to be about 60% of what MFP calculates.
January 16, 2011 9:49 PM
I've found that their elliptical estimations can be pretty high! Unless I'm working REALLY hard on the elliptical (with resistance up between 10-18 and an incline) I usually don't burn what they suggest. It really just depends on how hard I work though. Sometimes I'll burn 550 calories in an hour (which is less than what MFP says) and sometimes I'll burn around 675 (which is a little more)!
January 16, 2011 9:54 PM
Yes I often notice that MFP over estimates most elliptical sessions that I do. What i've done is that I enter in the time I spent on the elliptical but I over write what MFP says with what the machine I was on says (based on my weight and heart rate etc).
  525199
January 16, 2011 9:58 PM
I've heard that the only machines that are really accurate are treadmills, basically because they have been around longer and have been through more testing. Also, though I'm sure this isn't news to anyone, entering your weight will increase the accuracy of the machine's calculations.

I really wish the ellipticals were more accurate, but I feel like I work just as hard running on a treadmill and burn way less calories. Makes me suspicious.
  3636639
January 16, 2011 10:00 PM
MFP's estimates are HIGH. The elliptical at work seems fairly accurate, based off heartrate. MFP's calculation is like twice as much as what the machine is telling me I burned. I go off the machine since it's going off my heartrate.
  3598747
January 16, 2011 10:02 PM
MFP calculates your weight into the equation so it will not be the same for everyone....the machine only goes by the goals you enter...be it time, distance or calories...it is still based on a general calculation
January 16, 2011 10:03 PM
So are most of you saying that the calories burned estimation on the actual eliptical machine are inaccurate? When I was doing it at the gym on a number 7 resistance and slight incline, the machine estimated I burned 400 cals in a half hour! And I used a different eliptical machine every time (meaning it wasnt just a particular machine). I thought this was high, but I was being hopeful and optimistic at the same time :)
  3940725
January 16, 2011 10:05 PM
The MFP calculated calories are much higher than what my elliptical calculations have been for the amount of calories burned.
January 16, 2011 10:46 PM
OK - thanks for the info, everyone! Appreciate the help.
January 16, 2011 11:16 PM
QUOTE:

MFP calculates your weight into the equation so it will not be the same for everyone....the machine only goes by the goals you enter...be it time, distance or calories...it is still based on a general calculation


This is not true for all machines. The one I use I put in my weight, and it measure my heartrate while using the hand poles/center grips.
  3598747
January 16, 2011 11:18 PM
QUOTE:

So are most of you saying that the calories burned estimation on the actual eliptical machine are inaccurate? When I was doing it at the gym on a number 7 resistance and slight incline, the machine estimated I burned 400 cals in a half hour! And I used a different eliptical machine every time (meaning it wasnt just a particular machine). I thought this was high, but I was being hopeful and optimistic at the same time :)


I was saying the MFP was telling me I burned MORE than what the machine did. Since the machine I use is measuring my heartrate and has my weight put in, I go off that. MFP told me I burned over 600 cals for 30 minutes, the machine told me 378...I venture the machine is closer to being accurate.
  3598747
January 17, 2011 1:17 AM
I find it overestimates.
  3108886
January 17, 2011 1:36 AM
i find it under estimates it! going by my home eliptical and the one i use at the gym where i measure my heart rate, age and wieght i burn around 300 calories. mfp says its 230. now i dont really know what to believe!!!
January 17, 2011 9:34 AM
QUOTE:

i find it under estimates it! going by my home eliptical and the one i use at the gym where i measure my heart rate, age and wieght i burn around 300 calories. mfp says its 230. now i dont really know what to believe!!!


Yea, I find it underestimates as well according to the elliptical I use at the gym!
  3636639
January 17, 2011 9:49 AM
I find that MFP consistently registers less than the elliptical machines. I use the machine that allow input for weight and age. I go at a pretty aggressive pace. This morning I did 60 minutes and MFP indicated 757 while the machine registered 948. I vary what machines I use and the results are similar. The end all is I don't think either are very reliable so the truth must lie somewhere in the middle.
  2783283
March 23, 2012 11:11 AM
Below is the opinion of the National Council on Strength and Fitness based on a study performed.

The elliptical trainer has gained increased popularity in the fitness industry as a non-impact exchange for treadmill running. In fact, sales have increased as more and more walkers/joggers switch over to the elliptical trainer to meet their weight loss goals. Many users cite that the exercise is easier to perform than treadmill work with greater returns in energy expenditures. This though is a misconception and a likely contributor to reduced adaptations in response to the exercise program. Research has indicated that the elliptical trainer does not actually require the body to use the amount of calories calculated by the machine.

Energy expenditure is calculated by work expressed as MET intensities. Most fitness professionals recognize that a MET is the oxygen equivalent of 3.5 milliliters of oxygen used for each kilogram of body weight for the duration of time the action was performed (3.5 ml• kg-1• min-1). For each activity a MET value can be assigned which reflects the oxygen needed to accomplish the task. Since the body burns between 4.7 (fat) and 5.0 (CHO) calories per liter of oxygen used, identifying the oxygen needed for the work also identifies the approximate energy burned by the body for the duration the work is performed. The stationary aerobic machines used in commercial fitness facilities assign a MET intensity for each level or program in the machine’s computer, which is then used to predict total oxygen used and subsequent calories burned. The machines commonly ask for a body weight to finalize the math equation because the body’s size is needed to determine the work performed in weight bearing activities. Therefore, to be accurate, the actual work performed by the body in terms of oxygen used, must be consistent with the MET value used in the machine’s calculation of energy expenditure.

In one study published in Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, researchers measured the effects of different work factors such as stride rate, resistance, and combined arm/leg use on the elliptical trainer to determine the accuracy of the manufacturer’s energy expenditure predictions. The researchers tested twenty-six men and women between the ages of 21 and 40 on different training protocols using the elliptical equipment. Twenty-two participants performed two different tests, one without the arm poles using the leg-only option; the other test was performed using arm poles to identify the affects of combined work. The other four participants performed one test without the arm poles. The different tests were conducted using six 5-minute stages at two different stride rates, 110 and 134 strides • min-1, and three different resistance settings (level 2, 5, and 8). During the tests researchers assessed steady-state oxygen uptake (VO2), minute ventilation (VE), heart rate (HR) and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) for each participant.

As one would expect, when participants increased stride rate and resistance all measures increased. Ventilation and heart rate increased most notably between Levels 5 to 8, consistent with lactate accumulation. Researchers found that in all cases the manufacturer's calculated energy expenditure was overestimated. Additionally, the values varied significantly, which researchers attributed to experience and technique. As with any action, inefficient movement increase caloric demands and compensatory actions reduce the demands such as body weight supported postures. The researchers found that the elliptical trainer can be used to increase VO2 when the heart rates and RPE are consistent with 60-80% of VO2 reserve and heart rate reserve. But, due to the wide variability in VO2, and calculations used, predicting the metabolic cost during elliptical trainer exercise for an individual is not appropriate.

It has been surmised that the calculations used are based on running and stepping which would likely explain the predictive error. Running uses a lift phase and a landing phase, which requires greater acceleration and deceleration forces while stepping requires both a lift phase and deceleration phase. Both activities, particularly due to the lift phase, provide more work than actually performed by the non-impact trainer for the same distance moved (work = force x distance). In another study, leg-only exercise was compared to combined arm and leg exercise on the elliptical trainer. Although both of the techniques were again found to over predict the caloric costs of the activity when measured using spirometry, the combined arm and leg action was closer in prediction. These findings suggest that machines with arm attachments require arm action in the calculation and subsequent prediction.

Individuals using the elliptical trainer for caloric expenditure are better served using the upper and lower body attachments of the machine because, as one would expect the more perceived work being done the more calories actually being burned. The elliptical trainer certainly can adjunct any conditioning program but when used for caloric expenditure it is important that the over prediction be accounted for to improve accuracy in the energy balance equation.
  18021808

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