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MOTIVATED@LAST Posts: 15,457
4/27/12 9:57 P


Exercise intensity and calories are important.

But most of us are on Spark precisely because we haven't exercised enough in the past. And absolutely the best thing you can do for yourself is to establish a regular habit of exercise. What, how long or how hard matters far less than just the fact that you are trying to make exercising part of your long term lifestyle. Even if it is just 20 or 30 minutes a day, that is a great thing - and that's perhaps where Spark's emphasis on minutes comes in.


4/24/12 9:38 A

Ok, this is great! So most of you are saying to stay conservative in my cardio totals. It seems sparkpeople doesn't pay much attention to your actual calories burned as much as it focuses on the minutes you do of cardio. I definitely need to invest in a heart rate monitor and I intend to do that in the coming weeks. I appreciate everyone's input, it's quite valuable to me!

PAPAMIKIE SparkPoints: (48,308)
Fitness Minutes: (108,468)
Posts: 3,984
4/24/12 5:20 A

I have V02max testing done in a lab and was rated in the top 10% of 20 year olds at age 54. So my estimates are off a little as well

For what it is worth, when I used an elliptical before running. I worked very hear, fast spead, high resitance and typically burned in the order of 600 calories in an hour. This was while my weight was till up.

Edited by: PAPAMIKIE at: 4/24/2012 (05:25)
MOTIVATED@LAST Posts: 15,457
4/24/12 5:18 A

I agree with Unident - it is very difficult for any one except the extremely fit to burn more than 800 calories per hour. 1200 calories is just not a feasible number.

Most forms of exercise burn calories because they are weight bearing - you are having to move your body weight with each step. And heavier people burn more, because there is more of them to move. And most online calorie calculators (including Spark's) reflect this - they take body weight into account in coming up with an estimate.

However, with an elliptical, you are working against the resistance of the machine, not your own body weight, and for heavy people, the online calculator can produce distorted results.

(No personal judgement intended in the above - just trying to explain the math).

I'd go with the more conservative of the two estimates.


4/24/12 4:41 A

That's good that you've discovered you're right on track after all!

(My resting heart rate is 38, and my VO2 is 44, which is why the numbers on the machine simply don't work for me.)

Edited by: PUFFINTOAD at: 4/24/2012 (04:44)
PAPAMIKIE SparkPoints: (48,308)
Fitness Minutes: (108,468)
Posts: 3,984
4/24/12 3:28 A

I used the formula from PUFFINTOAD link in my heart rate calculations. I add an adjustment at the end that I call a personal factor it allows you to adjust the resulting numbers up of down by a percent. I tend to adjust the results down by 10 to 15 pc and I have a friend who adjusts them up by about 10%. This was arrived at for each of us on trial and error and feedback from months of looking at the estimates and realworld results.

I compared my HR results with half a dozen other estimates, sparks, mets, etc and found there was not really much difference between the outcome. About 10% difference between cals over two years of data. Likely less than the error with in the methods.

The machines will give you a fairly accurate heart rate measure. What math the apply to it afterwards is where the inaccuarcy comes in, that is you do not need to take your plus you can just get the heart rate off most machine.

JUSTDOIT011 Posts: 1,467
4/24/12 2:10 A

That's weird, because the elliptical I use at the gym is always very close to what SP estimates my calorie burn to be. I enter my weight (not age or gender) into the machine, I use level 12 of 20, and depending on how slow/fast I go that day, the machine says I burn anywhere from 370-420 calories in 37 minutes. SP's tracker says 389 calories for 37 minutes. So I always just use SP's calorie estimate, and figure that some days I'm burning slightly less (perhaps 370) and some days slightly more (420) but it all averages out to that 389 that SP suggests.

UNIDENT Posts: 33,498
4/24/12 1:43 A

I've found Spark's estimates to be wildly high for the elliptical - totally unreasonable.

For one hour of working out, no, I'm sorry, 1200 calories is insanely impossible.

Most activities will burn around 6-10 calories per minute. If you're extremely overweight or working VERY hard you might push it to 12-14 cals per minute at absolute most. That would max out a one hour session at 840 calories. Burning 20 cals per minute is completely unreasonable for anyone anywhere, IMO.

So I would go with the machine estimate.

I compared my machine to my HRM and Spark and found the machine was much closer, a little understated of my actual burn, where Spark was much higher than the actual HRM figure reported.

I would very strongly caution against using any figure that ever exceeds around 12 cals per minute.

4/23/12 11:38 P

Heart rate, in my opinion, is the most accurate way to compute the calories you burn during aerobic exercise such as the elliptical machine. (I've learned over time that my fitness level gives me about half the actual calorie burn compared to the number stated on the elliptical machine's screen.) Good news is, you don't have to have a heart rate moniter to get a pretty good estimate. Simply take your pulse three times during your workout (15 minutes, 30, then 45 minutes into your hour) and average them. I simply find my pulse on my neck and count it for thirty seconds, then double that number. Use that number in the calculator at this website:

This formula is the same one used by advanced heart rate monitor systems. It takes into account your age, gender, weight, and VO2 max, all of which affect calorie burn. If you don't know your VO2 max, stick in 35. That's a nice, average number, and will keep the results realistic.

Hope this helps!

Edited by: PUFFINTOAD at: 4/23/2012 (23:41)
4/23/12 11:10 P

Thank you Coach. I am going to go with Sparkpeople's estimate because I'm pretty sure the elliptical isn't totally accurate. Plus, I did work very hard on my interval training and was covered in sweat, so 1200 sounds pretty rewarding!

SP_COACH_NANCY SparkPoints: (0)
Fitness Minutes: (112,042)
Posts: 46,222
4/23/12 10:09 P


The American Council on Exercise state that machines can be off by as much as 30% in their calorie calculations and this can be even more so at a gym where the machines may not be maintained and calibrated on a consistent basis. Below is a link to the Ask the Experts response to this question. I hope this helps!

Coach Nancy

4/23/12 10:03 P

Hi everyone,
I just got back from the gym, where I did interval training on the elliptical for 60 minutes. I weigh 262 and Sparkpeople says I burned 1200 calories. But the elliptical at the gym said I had burned 775 calories. I don't know which one is more accurate. Can you guys give me some advice on which one is more accurate. I know I should invest in a heart monitor but I don't have the funds right now. Can anyone give me some feedback? Thanks!!

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