Good workout! Just how accurate is that calorie count?

Good workout! Just how accurate is that calorie count?

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PHOENIX -

Ask yourself this. Why do I work out? Is it for health reasons? Do I have a fitness goal? Am I trying to lose weight so I look great in those skinny jeans?

According to the International Health, Racquet and Sports Club Association, more than 50-million people belong to a health club.

That's more than a 10 percent increase in memberships over the last three years.

And get this. 16 percent of those people say they rely on the machines they use to track their progress. But just how accurate are those machines?

You sweat, you push, you labor to burn those calories. To get your heart rate up. But when your workout is done, the question is how hard did you really work, and can you count on a treadmill for the answer?

As more and more Americans hit the gym, it's becoming more important to learn what these machines can do.

After running for one mile on what most consider a basic treadmill at a 1% incline, the machine logged 78 calories burned and a maximum heart rate of 159.

"If you look at those machines that were popular five years ago or even at your basic gym, you're going to put in your basic input," says Valarie Sanford, fitness coach.

"I think it's your weight and what level you want to work at and there's really no other information that goes in there."

Personal trainer at Orange Fitness Valarie Sanford says members here strap on a heart rate monitor before each workout, like the one she put on me, which she says provides a more accurate reading.

After another one mile run at a 1% incline and this machine logged 107 calories burned and a max heart rate of 186.

A third and even more complicated test also required a heart monitor, a warm up, and an oxygen analyzer.

"What I am actually doing is performing a metabolic test basically measuring the gas exchange that's in your body to find out where and how your body is actually using its fuel sources," says Jeff Kitchen.

Jeff Kitchen has performed thousands of what he calls a "VO2 Max Test." It counts calories burned down to the decimal point.

Results indicated 91 calories were burned during a one mile run at a 1% incline, with a heart rate of 164.

"Whenever you look at the treadmill or any cardio equipment that has the amount of calories that you are burning, they're using general population charts or they have just massed a huge amount of people to determine those numbers. Where everyone is so unique, so individualized, a test tells me specifically with an individual's metabolism and physiology."

"There's no machine out there that is basically going to give you 100% accuracy because everything is personal," says Ander Pierre, sales manager at Home Fitness.

Andre Pierre is also a personal trainer. He knows the equipment and knows how different each machine is, from varying speed sensors, down to the accuracy. Pierre suggests using them as a guide.

"It really comes down to basically you have one machine that you use consistently and that's going to give you that base rate to be able to actually gauge at least a fitness type of level that you can use if you are trying to graph your fitness and so on."

The results from all three of our tests varied by as much as 30%, proving only that the machines you use to get fit are just as individualized as a fitness routine is.

A VO2 Max Test costs about $150.

Kitchen says the result of your initial test should last about six months. He suggests getting retested after that in order to track your progress and keep an eye on any changes.

 


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