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Tip For Females to Adjust Cardio Calories Burned

Sunday, August 05, 2012

I have a tip I use when figuring out how many cardio calories I have burned. This stems from something I read in David Greenwalt's book "The Leanness Lifestyle", which I consider my fitness bible. In the book he states that it's reasonable to assume that a man working very hard burns 10 calories a minute and a woman 8. Since he goes off of scientific studies and not hunches, I trust David's book and the things he says in it.

I've always felt like cardio machines are a little generous when it comes to how many calories they say I burn. I wanted to adjust it to be on the safe side of realistic for my logging purposes. So, working off of the 10/8 rule above, it's fair to guess that we women burn about 80% of the number of calories men doing performing the same activity at the same intensity. (8 is 80% of 10.) I assume the machine thinks I am a man, since while I have had a machine ask my weight and age, I've yet to see one that asks my gender. Given that, I take the total amount of calories it says I've burned and reduce it by 20% to give me 80%. (This is easier mental math for me than multiplying it by 80%)

So if I worked out on the elliptical machine for 45 minutes and it says I burned 450 calories, I assume I burned roughly 360 calories. (20% of 450 is 90: 450 minus 90 is 360.)

To break it down even further for my usually-exhausted mind at the end of a tough cardio workout, I just double what 10% is to come up with the 20% number, since 10% is easier to tell at a glance. So in the case of the elliptical workout above, 45 is 10% of 450. 45 times two is 90. So 90 is 20%, or what I need to subtract from the total the machine is giving me.

Everyone following?

My personal method for logging my food and exercise is in my Weight Watchers tracker, which we all know uses a point system instead of calories. I assume every 50 calories is 1 Weight Watchers point. So I round the number I came up with (360) down (not EVER up- I am trying to err on the side of caution) to the nearest 50. For the aforementioned elliptical workout, this would give me 350. Then I just divide by 50 to come up with the number of Points to check off in my exercise tracker- in this case 7. (350 divided by 50 is 7.)

This is all very rough and by no means terribly accurate, but I've found it's a good way to guess.

If you are a man, forget it. As long as you entered your age and weight into the machine, just go with the number it gives you. If you are a man using the Weight Watchers system, round that number down to the nearest 50, divide by 50, and there 'ya got your exercise points.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    This is good info. Do you have a rule of thumb you follow for circuit-type resistance training by chance? Also, how do you account for the afterburn? (or EPOC the exercise physiologists!)
    2021 days ago
    Thanks for sharing! I have to admit that I haven't been counting calories burned. gasp:-0 I've been pretty much just looking at minutes & RPE. Same goes with calories, but look at the range I am in as a guide. Was afraid to get into it in the beginning because I thought it might trigger the old OCD and ED. I am still losing, but will take a look at it when I stop losing. I do take a look at the numbers on the treadmill and on Spark, but it seems to be all over the place. Funny how sometimes I am a real sweaty mess with an activity and the number seems low and other activities seem way too high. I will try your formula when I start counting those #s.

    2021 days ago
  • ROCKMAN6797
    Great information. I tend to distrust the number a cardio machine will spit back at you. I rather use the 10 calories per minute method instead. I am very interested in using a HRM but have yet to purchase one.
    2023 days ago
  • TANYAP71
    My HRM suggests that the machines at my gym are off by 25% for me. I take that into account and also subract 1 cal/min for BMR. How do you work BMR into tracking exercise calories?
    2023 days ago
  • IRP1114
    Cool :-) thanks for sharing your methods! I just go by my heart rate monitor. My treadmill always says at least 100 calories more burned! Sometimes up to 300 more. So you are right about how off they can be!
    2024 days ago
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