Fitness Articles

Fitness FAQs

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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.

The best way to lose fat is through cardiovascular exercise. It is important to do a variety of exercises to strengthen these areas, but until that excess fat is gone, you will not see the muscle definition. For example, if you’re not doing cardio, crunches are not going to help get the 6-pack you’ve been hoping for. Regular cardio exercise at a level that’s challenging for you is your best bet.

How do I add my own exercises to the Fitness Plans?

Go to your fitness plan. Click on the name of an exercise that our plan has given you. Then you’ll want to "swap" each of the exercises in your plan for an exercise of your choice, which you'll have to enter yourself.

A pop-up screen will appear, saying "Swap Exercise". Instead of simply clicking on a different demo, you can click on the "User Entered" tab on the top right. Here you can enter the exercise name (such as "Leg Extension Machine"), the number of reps you do, and the number of sets. After entering this info, go back to the Swap Screen and click on the name. It will automatically replace our demo with your exercise.

You'll have to do this for all of your exercises, but once you do, the changes you made will be saved and pop up again on all your strength training days.

I've been eating healthy and exercising, but I'm still not losing. What am I doing wrong?

It is very important to really track your food and exercise calories, because nine times out of ten, "mysteries" about not losing weight are due to underestimating calories consumed or overestimating calories burned. If you feel like you’re doing everything right and just not losing, the "Related Content" articles on the right will help.

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Member Comments



  • I found out I have osteoarthritis in my right and left knee, I haven't been able to exercise due to a knee contusion, but I have been able to loose the weight by watching what I eat and how much. I lost 13 pounds (3months), by following the Sparks recipes. I just started walking again, and biking.
  • JWAITE77
    I use Leslie Sansone's walking cds while I am standing on my mini trampoline. I get a great workout while saving my joints. The exercises go really fast. When I use the weights I just step off for that and then go back to the mini trampoline for the walking portion. Thanks Leslie
  • I am unable to walk d/t fractured left foot, I am going to try and start riding a bike. Any suggestions on other exercises without walking?
  • I found out I have osteoarthritis in my right knee and it's severe. I see the doctor soon, until then what can I do exercise wise?
  • LIGHTPATROL
    Go to a yard sale & buy a bowling ball. Use it as a medicine ball. Some of the strongest muscles in your body involve twisting. Move the ball from waist down through your legs & raise it up "like hiking a football," then raise it up behind your head & rotate/twist and stretch your body 1st on one side and then the other. Then, move the ball outside of one leg, raise and hold; then, slowly bring the ball up & over the opposite shoulder, rotate/twist, stretch and hold. Do the opposite side. Number of reps. are what you feel up to. For me, this is fantastic core exercise.
    Throw in some curls or tricep exercise as desired. I mess around with small duck-pin balls for hand strength, occasionally, as well. Works different muscles than weights.
  • EMMIKOF
    It is hard for me to move and walk allot because I had surgery on my back with hardware,
    that's what the doc. calls it when you have allot of metal.
    I also had surgery on my left foot first, then I had one on me right, then another on my right
    again, and I was getting better and I tripped on my walker wheel and broke my ankle. So
    I really can't run or jump. I'm just thankful that I can sometimes holding on to my walker.
  • EMMIKOF
    It is hard for me to move and walk allot because I had surgery on my back with hardware,
    that's what the doc. calls it when you have allot of metal.
    I also had surgery on my left foot first, then I had one on me right, then another on my right
    again, and I was getting better and I tripped on my walker wheel and broke my ankle. So
    I really can't run or jump. I'm just thankful that I can sometimes holding on to my walker.
  • EMMIKOF
    It is hard for me to move and walk allot because I had surgery on my back with hardware,
    that's what the doc. calls it when you have allot of metal.
    I also had surgery on my left foot first, then I had one on me right, then another on my right
    again, and I was getting better and I tripped on my walker wheel and broke my ankle. So
    I really can't run or jump. I'm just thankful that I can sometimes holding on to my walker.
  • EMMIKOF
    It is hard for me to move and walk allot because I had surgery on my back with hardware,
    that's what the doc. calls it when you have allot of metal.
    I also had surgery on my left foot first, then I had one on me right, then another on my right
    again, and I was getting better and I tripped on my walker wheel and broke my ankle. So
    I really can't run or jump. I'm just thankful that I can sometimes holding on to my walker.
  • EMMIKOF
    It is hard for me to move and walk allot because I had surgery on my back with hardware,
    that's what the doc. calls it when you have allot of metal.
    I also had surgery on my left foot first, then I had one on me right, then another on my right
    again, and I was getting better and I tripped on my walker wheel and broke my ankle. So
    I really can't run or jump. I'm just thankful that I can sometimes holding on to my walker.
  • EMMIKOF
    It is hard for me to move and walk allot because I had surgery on my back with hardware,
    that's what the doc. calls it when you have allot of metal.
    I also had surgery on my left foot first, then I had one on me right, then another on my right
    again, and I was getting better and I tripped on my walker wheel and broke my ankle. So
    I really can't run or jump. I'm just thankful that I can sometimes holding on to my walker.
  • EMMIKOF
    It is hard for me to move and walk allot because I had surgery on my back with hardware,
    that's what the doc. calls it when you have allot of metal.
    I also had surgery on my left foot first, then I had one on me right, then another on my right
    again, and I was getting better and I tripped on my walker wheel and broke my ankle. So
    I really can't run or jump. I'm just thankful that I can sometimes holding on to my walker.
  • ACEBES1751
    I have had a mild heart attack and have a triple A I am still in the dark as to how much exercise I can do I have just about finished 36 hours of cardio rehab and will be on my own for exercise all I've been told by my Vascular surgeons Nurse is to watch my blood pressure I take medication for high blood pressure and have had no problems. Any advice on how to monitor my blood pressure and what amount of weight I can use for strength training, I am 69 years old and am over weight by 20 lbs.

    Thank you Bill Acebes
  • JINANEM
    Im having pain on my right side, right under the thoracic cage everytime i do ABS workout, and it lasts 3 days.
    Can you please tell me what can be the reason? and if i should contact my doctor
  • LINDAR89
    I'm Linda, I thought this article was awesome and very helpful! Thanks very much!

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