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FIELDWORKING SparkPoints: (29,946)
Fitness Minutes: (64,745)
Posts: 748
2/10/13 2:52 P

I usually take the average of the two. When one is way lower than the other, then I go for the lower of the two.

MOTIVATED@LAST Posts: 15,364
2/9/13 9:34 P

The intensity of an elliptical workout depends on a combination of speed and resistance. One of the problems with any online calculator estimating calories from an elliptical is that it has no idea of the resistance.

Spark's calorie calculator assumes that calorie burn is proportionate to body weight. For most activities (eg. running, walking, aerobics), this is pretty reasonable. But for the elliptical, where you are working against the resistance of the machine rather than your body weight, this can produce some seriously distorted results, especially for heavier people.

I would definitely recommend going with the more conservative of the machine estimate and Spark's estimate.


SOFTLYROSE SparkPoints: (7,535)
Fitness Minutes: (4,971)
Posts: 12
2/9/13 8:21 P

Thanks for the advice UNIDENT!

I actually just did an experiment of my own when I worked out. It wasn't terribly rigorous or anything, but when I started I didn't use the heart rate monitor. The distance and RPM stats were the same as usual, but without the heart rate reading, it showed about half as many calories burned. I'll probably do something more rigorous over break when I have the time, but for now it looks like it is using my heart rate to help calculate calorie burn.

35BYMAY SparkPoints: (1,477)
Fitness Minutes: (555)
Posts: 281
2/9/13 7:19 P

for my current weight and fitness level, the machine handles are pretty accurate... I use a HR calculator online based on the handles and it gives me approx the same calorie burn the machine says

UNIDENT Posts: 33,498
2/9/13 5:26 P

SOFTLYROSE The HR handles on most machines only read HR for displaying to you. It isn't normally a factor in their calories burned figures.

Here is my blog where I discovered what variables my gym's treadmill uses in calculating the calorie burn. You can do a similar experiment on your machine to find out if it uses your HR or not.

35BYMAY SparkPoints: (1,477)
Fitness Minutes: (555)
Posts: 281
2/9/13 5:17 P

They are unrealistic for sure... I plugged in numbers for fun, because I don't use an elliptical, but it said I burned 400 cals in 30 minutes... I can't even do that on the incline trainer at 20%+ incline!

SOFTLYROSE SparkPoints: (7,535)
Fitness Minutes: (4,971)
Posts: 12
2/9/13 4:12 P

That's really interesting. I've never had much of a difference between the machine and sparkpeople's count. Only about 10 extra for the elliptical on sparkpeople, and 15-20 extra for the bike. Compared to the whole picture of about 500 or so burned throughout the workout, that seems negligible.

My concern is whether the heart rate monitor on the machine is accurate, as I can't afford to buy my own. Does anyone have an idea on this?

UNIDENT Posts: 33,498
2/9/13 2:23 P

35BYMAY no I haven't specifically pointed them out to Spark. However, they (rightly) should take the results of a proper peer-reviewed study over one person's experimentation.

I just hope their figures for elliptical actually CAME from a proper peer-reviewed study. Because it's highly interesting that their results are so impossible.

GLH1980 SparkPoints: (0)
Fitness Minutes: (3,951)
Posts: 278
2/9/13 1:51 P

I think both the machine and SP are probably wrong. You need a heart rate monitor for accurate calorie burn.

35BYMAY SparkPoints: (1,477)
Fitness Minutes: (555)
Posts: 281
2/9/13 1:47 P

UNIDENT, has sparkpeople seen your blogs? I wonder why they haven't changed the elliptical readings, or why they don't... they are certainly wrong, as you have shown, so why aren't they being changed to the correct calories burned, or at least a more accurate number? For elliptical users, this creates a huge false assurance, and could lead to massive overeating

UNIDENT Posts: 33,498
2/9/13 1:40 P

Check out my blog where I compared my HRM, Spark, and the machines, for two magnetic based devices, the elliptical and exercycle.

Then check out where I compared whether Spark is (wrongly) using your weight to calculate burn on machines that don't use your body weight, like the elliptical:

These will show you how you cannot use Spark's entry. At all. Just forget it.

If you don't have an HRM, then use the machine, or google some other sites for an average and see how they compare to the machine.

KRISTEN_SAYS SparkPoints: (79,296)
Fitness Minutes: (44,155)
Posts: 5,092
2/9/13 10:57 A

I'd go with the smaller of the two estimates for now. I'd also recommend a good heart rate monitor, which will give you a better estimate for calories burned.

GARCIAMAURICA SparkPoints: (0)
Fitness Minutes: (2,438)
Posts: 30
2/9/13 10:17 A

ALSO.....The elliptical is always the LOW calorie number. Sparkpeople fitness tracker gives me the highest calorie number..... =-(

GARCIAMAURICA SparkPoints: (0)
Fitness Minutes: (2,438)
Posts: 30
2/9/13 10:12 A

I am very confused. I've been doing the Elliptical and it will take down my age, weight, etc. It gives me a total of calories that I "Burned" WELL when I go to add the minutes and elliptical on my fitness tracker, it gives me a different total of calories burned. It's not like its only 15 calorie difference. It's always 250 calories and more in difference! I know my weight and age matter. I heard that heavier people burn more...BUT I have no idea who to believe? Any insight?

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