Knowing the truth to some of these cardio machine myths could help you get a better workout, reach your fitness goals faster and may help with weight loss.
Machines are not perfect, and we need to keep in mind there are always individual differences that need to be accounted for when interpreting results from cardio machines. Working out with cardio machines can give you a good workout, but keep in mind these myth busters when jumping on a machine.
Myth Buster #1: The calories burned on the display are not always accurate
Elliptical machines are easy on joints and are a popular alternative to the treadmill. However, the elliptical is probably the cardio machine with the most room for error when it comes to calorie burn.
The elliptical motion is not really “natural”. Elliptical machines vary greatly on what their range of motion is, and the range of motion plays a role in how many calories are burned.
How much you use your arms compared with your legs is also a factor that will determine over all calorie burn that is not taken into account on the calorie display. Using your legs more uses more muscles and in general increases calorie burn. However, using the arms more can increase heart rate faster.
Stair steppers can really cause someone to sweat and give a high calorie burn. However, leaning on the machine instead of standing upright can drastically lower your true calorie burn, and the machine will not take that into account when displaying calories. Same is true for treadmills; hanging on to railings can lower true calorie burn.
Myth Buster #2: Entering your information before exercising is important for cardio machines
One way to increase the accuracy for calories burned on cardio machines is to make sure to enter your information before exercising. Instead of using the manual option which starts the exercise right away, take time to enter in your weight and possibly age. Entering in weight for any weight bearing exercise, like treadmill running, will drastically increase calorie burn accuracy.
If you don’t enter in your information, the calories burned are completely arbitrary. Most machines base the calories burned on a general weight, like 150 pounds. So, if you don’t enter in your information, the actual calories you burned could be drastically higher or lower.
Myth Buster #3: The heart rate zone on machines is not always accurate, and the designated fat burning zone may not be what you need
Some cardio machines have a small heart rate zone graph that shows, depending on your age, what heart rate zone you should be in for fat burning, cardio, etc. categories.
While this can be a place to start for understanding different heart rate zones, there is wide variability if those ranges apply to you. Your individual heart rate zones may not be what is on the machine.
Fat burning zones are at lower intensities because we burn a higher percent of fat at lower intensities. However, the fat burning zone recommended on the machine may be too easy and not apply to you.
Even for fat burning zones, you should still feel like you’re working hard but could carry on a conversation with the person next to you. See also: 10 ways to burn more calories and increase your fitness levels.
If you are training by heart rate, a general guideline to find your target heart rate zones is to take 220- your age. This will give you your max estimated heart rate, then take that number times 0.60-0.85 depending on if you want lower intensity or higher intensity.
Talk to an exercise health professional for more information on finding your individual heart rate guidelines instead of using the ones off the cardio machine.
Don’t be afraid to vary your workout intensities. Working out at a moderate level has benefits, and working out at higher intensities has benefits.
Myth Buster #4: It’s the same as working out outside
Whether it’s stair climbing, stationary bike or the treadmill, in general working out on a piece of equipment won’t give you the same calorie burn as outside. For example, when exercising outside there are no handrails to lean on, there are hills, wind and various terrains that a machine can’t give you.
Myth Buster #5: The more you sweat, the better is not always true
Sweating is the body’s way of cooling off. Just because you are sweating profusely doesn’t always translate to a high calorie burn. If the gym or building you work out in is hot or humid, you will naturally sweat more independent of your workout.
In conclusion, cardio machines can be a good workout, and yes you can burn a high number of calories with them. However, the calories on the display are usually not 100% accurate, especially if someone is leaning on hand rails. Entering in your specific information before exercising can increase calorie accuracy.
Recommended fat burning zones have wide variability, and a fat burning zone program may not always be the best option for exercise every time. Exercising outside can offer increased calorie burn and working muscles different than on a machine, and sweat rate does not always equal calorie burn rate.