The Truth About “Calorie Burn” on Exercise Equipment

You’ve probably been at the gym, pedaling or stepping away on one of the machines, and caught a glimpse of how many calories you’re burning during exercise. However, do you know what these numbers mean? (Explanation below)

The truth is, if you burned for example, 500 calories during an exercise bout, it doesn’t mean you burned 500 extra calories on top of your basal metabolism. It means you burned 500 calories including your basal metabolism. Confused?

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the number of calories you burn at complete rest. The reason you enter your weight into the machines is so that it can estimate your BMR. If you just do “quick start” it assumes you weigh 150 pounds.

Example:

Let’s say the machine estimates my BMR at 2400 calories per day (2400 calories burned in a 24-hour period). That’s 100 calories per hour (2400 calories divided by 24 hours). If I exercise for an hour and the machine says I burn 500 calories, that’s not 500 extra calories, it’s 500 calories total. Remember, in one hour I burn 100 calories, anyway. So I really only burned 400 extra calories.

The Real Formula:

  • Enter your bodyweight into the machine if you want an accurate calorie count.
  • Use the BMR formula to estimate your daily calorie burn.
  • Divide this number by 24 to get your hourly calorie burn.
  • You can divide further if you spend less than an hour on the machine (i.e. 30 minutes = 0.5 hours, 45 minutes = 0.75 hours).
  • Finally, subtract this amount from the number of calories the machine says you burned, and you’ll get a more accurate count of the additional calories you burned.

A typical meal at a famous fast food restaurant in California can equal a whole day’s worth of calories for a medium to large-sized individual, so it remains important to make wise food choices if staying lean is your goal.

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