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Fitness Articles  ›  Exercise Basics

Fitness FAQs

-- By SparkPeople Experts
Should I use the Cardio Tracker or my machine to figure out how many calories my exercise burned?

SparkPeople’s database estimates the number of calories you burn during exercise, based on generally-accepted rates of calories burned for various activities. Our tracker also bases your individual calorie burn on your weight, because people of different weights burn calories at different rates. (A person who weighs more will burn more calories doing the same activity as a person who weighs less.)

Cardio machines are also estimating your calorie burn. Some can be more accurate than others—for example, if you input variables like your age, height, weight, and gender. However, even the actual machine you use tends to be inaccurate—and some overestimate calories burned by up to 30%.

Both SparkPeople's cardio tracker and cardio machines estimate the number of calories you burn. Estimates are always a problem because you never really know how hard a person is working. For example, two different people could go on a 2-mile walk at a speed of 4 mph, and that could be very easy for a fit person (so they’d burn fewer calories), yet very difficult for a beginner (so they’d burn more calories). Because these exercise trackers don’t really know how hard you are working, the estimates can be a little off.

The best way to monitor calorie burn is to wear a good heart rate monitor. This works better because your heart rate is an accurate measure of how hard you are working, and is directly related to oxygen consumption during exercise (which is the true predictor of calories burned, but you’d have to visit an exercise lab and be hooked up to a machine for that kind of accuracy).

Why does the Fitness Tracker not calculate calories burned through strength training?

Although you will burn calories from strength training, that number is going to vary widely from person to person. It will depend on how much weight you are using, how many sets/reps you are doing, how much rest you take in between sets and how hard you are working. Therefore any estimates would not be reliable. Just consider this to be an extra bonus to your weekly goals!

Circuit training is in the Fitness Tracker, since it is both a cardio and strength training workout. Click here for a description of circuit training.

How do I lose weight from a specific place on my body?

There is no way to target weight loss to a specific area of the body because your body decides where it wants to put on weight and where it wants to take it off. The midsection is a common "problem" area for many people.
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Member Comments

  • Thanks so much for this article. It really helped answer some questions for me. I couldn't believe the fact that some people say they burn over 400 calories on a gym machine whereas I work hard at home with fitness videos and only burn about 150. I was debating this with a co-worker today and said something has got to be wrong. I like your answer that some gym machines over-estimate calories by as much as 30% and also that people who weigh less would burn less calories (I think being a very short person even though I am overweight still I generally do weigh less than many of my colleagues and friends.) At least now I have some answers. - 3/13/2014 11:06:36 AM
  • Unfortunately I have lymph edema and need to keep my legs wrapped most of the day and the only pool I could use has no facilities where I could rewrapp my legs. I am trying to walk but also have breathing problems. I can walk 100 steps at a time and although I'm short of breath afterward a little rest and I'm back up and about in my power chair. I'm up to 7 sessions of walking a day. Three of them are taking my service dog outside. - 2/9/2014 7:28:15 PM
  • REGINETTA
    New to the tracker. Like it very much. One question is do I need to tap it daily to wake it up once the material has been downloaded to the computer. (I don't understand modern technology to well. Old School). Reginetta - 12/17/2013 4:25:12 PM
  • DAPECK
    @ JDCOBAN418. when i had my hip replacement i did upper body work with db's, kb's and rubber bands. i of course was encouraged to walk using my walker to help the hip. i did all this again when i had my knee replacement. you can also do upper body yoga stretches. do what you can and forget the word i can't. - 4/16/2013 10:56:30 AM
  • DAPECK
    m-t-f i do 20 minutes yoga/20 minutes interval training using db's kb's and jakes tower and 20 minutes dancing to zumba or other fast music. tues,thur and sat. i only do 30 minutes yoga. i am 72 and change up exercises every couple months. doing these exercises keeps me flexible, stops muscle loss and improves cardio. - 4/16/2013 10:51:00 AM
  • Candygirl386

    I use to walk on my treadmill on a daily basis but I stopped because it got boring to me. So, I started doing a little of Pilates and lifting five weight too and I quit doing that too. What exercise can I do to keep my interest? I need something that will keep me motivated and interested to get me to the point if really doing the exercises and enjoy doing them. Please let me know my next step? - 11/30/2012 10:19:03 PM
  • MRSAPRIL27
    I'm thinking about taking a fitness/condition
    ing class & a weight training class next semester. They will be on Monday's and Wednesdays for 1-1/2 hours each. They are an Hour apart from each other. Is this recommended? I just want some feed back before I make my decision. Thanks - 11/5/2012 5:42:50 PM
  • I have had trouble getting started with exercise too! My latest plan is to try something I enjoy- bike riding and do at least 10 minutes a day. first day was today, I'm hoping this plan works! - 9/25/2012 11:55:59 AM
  • Any suggestions on how to slowly ease into an exercise routine? I keep making excuses...but can't seem to make the time - so my goal this week is to just start by adding 10 minutes a day, but I'm not sure what would give me the most benefit? Thanks! - 9/15/2012 12:34:36 PM
  • MAYLENA66
    I have very bad knees and I am obese. I started during sit and fit exercises at least three times weekly and it has helped me. Sit and fit exercises are on many PBS tv stations.I also go to physical therapy weekly. They gave me a workout sheet to take home with exercises to do at home. Social Security will pay for physical therapy that's in a hospital. They believe that if we are willing to help ourselves they will cover the cost. - 8/4/2012 11:57:40 PM
  • What if you don't have all the things that you need your eating habits or your exercise habits? I don't have all the ingredients in order to make a certain recipe or exercise equipment. I just use my treadmill or my weights to work on my arms. Would this be enough to lose weight? - 7/31/2012 6:03:11 PM
  • JDCOBAN418
    I'm in a powerchair/wheelc
    hair -----How do I exercise? - 9/10/2011 6:53:19 PM
  • hi.........greeti
    ngs.
    i am suffering from polio in my left legs...that why i am not able to do many exercises....pls help me out and let me know what type of exercises should i do to maintain my weight....... - 8/18/2011 9:41:43 AM
  • If one has high blood pressure or heart issues, check out the Conditions Center of Spark. It's not substitute for a doctor's advice, but even Spark articles stress that a talk test is a more accurate measure of exertion than most heart rate monitors, esp. if you're on beta blockers.
    I'd been going to get one til I saw that info. Stay safe! - 1/24/2011 2:06:36 PM
  • JESTERJO
    There's some fabulous information on this site ... thanks everyone.
    I'm 64 years old next birthday and health and fitness has been a way of life for me. Eating 6 meals (snacks) daily has been the basis of my eating regime since about age 18 and I've stuck to it most of the time. I start at about 6.00am with about half of a cupfull of slowly cooked oats - I've always stuck with oats mainly because they maintain the lifeforce - unlike most other cereals. About 8.30am it's usually something similar to a slice of wholemeal bread spread with avocado and fresh shrimp/prawns. About 11.00am probably half of a cupfull of boiled/cooked brown rice and white meat. Around 1.30pm fruit and yogurt while avoiding the high G I's. About 4.00pm cold white meat and vege salad. Then between 6.00 and 7.00pm cooked fresh fish and cooked veges. This is the general idea of my daily eating pattern .... I've learnt that timing, quantity and nutritional value adds up to a lot when it comes to achieving and maintaining a slim toned energized healthy body and a fulfilling life free from illness.
    http://www.tatt
    oosb.com - 1/14/2011 1:59:33 AM
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