How Accurate Are Elliptical Calorie Counters? Here Is How To Find Out

If you are using an elliptical to workout and lose weight, am sure you are asking yourself: how accurate are elliptical calorie counters?

How Accurate Are Elliptical Calorie Counters? Here Is How To Find Out

Category: Fitness Machine & Workout Tips

If you are using an elliptical to workout and lose weight, am sure you are asking yourself: how accurate are elliptical calorie counters?

Sometimes people can get preoccupied with how many calories their ellipticals say they’re burning. Burning calories means weight loss, so it’s a good thing, right?

The only issue is that it’s not clear whether ellipticals give you an accurate reading. If you’re basing your entire weight loss program on an incorrect figure, you can become disheartened because it doesn’t reflect your actual progress.

So how can you accurately work out how many calories you’re burning on an elliptical? Let’s try and find out.

How Do Ellipticals Calculate The Amount Of Calories Burned?

Most ellipticals use a formula based on the Compendium of Physical Activities. This is a list of the amount of energy you use doing particular activities in comparison to simply sitting and doing nothing.

It uses a value called a Metabolic Equivalent (MET). One MET is the same as one kilocalorie per kilogram you weigh per hour. According to the Compendium, elliptical training burns 5 METs.

The formula for exactly how many calories you burn using this figure is:

[METS X Your Weight in Kilograms X Hours Spent Exercising] = Calories Burned

Here’s an example. Say someone weighs 70 kg and exercises for two hours. The number of calories they will burn on an elliptical is:

[5 X 70 X 2] = 700 calories

As you can see, this equation only factors in your weight and no other features that can influence how many calories you burn. This is why it’s not always a reliable estimate.


Factors That Contribute To Burning Calories


how accurate are elliptical calorie counters


Most calorie counters on elliptical machines focus on two aspects: weight and occasionally your age. If your machine isn’t asking for these factors, you can already assume that any figure it gives you is inaccurate.

Although these two factors are important in determining how many calories you’re burning, there are many more aspects that influence your workout, such as:

Age and weight

Although these two have been mentioned already, it’s necessary to know why they’re important. Age has an impact on how many calories you burn because the younger you are the easier it is to lose weight. On the other hand, the less you weigh, the longer it takes to burn calories.

Size of your body

If you have a larger frame, you’re more likely to burn calories faster than someone else who’s smaller even if you weigh exactly the same amount.

Body fat percentage

Someone who has more body fat in comparison to muscle mass will burn calories slowly. Once again, even if two people weigh the same amount, the person with less body fat will lose weight more efficiently.


This can be linked to body fat, as a taller person is more likely to have less body fat. Most elliptical machines don’t take note of this factor. An example is that a tall person who weighs 140 lbs. but only has 20% body fat will burn calories faster compared to someone else who also weighs 140lb but has 40% body fat.


Your metabolism is based on how active you are. If your lifestyle is more vivacious, your fitness levels will be higher and you’ll burn more calories a day. Someone who is sedentary won’t be as fit and will struggle more to burn calories.

Level of skill

The more you use an elliptical the better you’ll be at knowing what workouts are more effective for you. This means you’ll be able to efficiently plan training programs so that you can burn the most calories. If you’ve barely used an elliptical, you’ll not know the best exercise for your body. Luckily it just takes some practice and you’ll become a pro in no time.

Based on these factors, it’s clear that elliptical calorie counters don’t account for every reason why you burn calories. This is why you can’t always trust the machines.

How Accurate Are Elliptical Calorie Counters And How Do You Do Your Calorie Count

Here’s the deal breaker: it’s extremely difficult to account for every single calorie you lose and gain throughout the day. As a result, accurately calculating how many calories you burn during exercise is challenging. Using the Metabolic Equivalent (MET) figure is probably one of the means of getting an accurate answer but there are three other ways that might be more reliable.

The Harvard Way

According to a study done by the Harvard Medical School, for every pound you weigh, you’ll burn 2.16 calories for every 30 minutes you spend on an elliptical. The math for this equation is simpler, purely because there are no tricky conversions. It also gives you a more accurate estimate.

The only problem is that this solution only accounts for weight and no other factors that influence your calorie count. If your training is more vigorous, for example, you’ll most likely burn more calories than this.

The Technological way

In our wonderful era run by technology, there’s a bounty of apps that will do all the math for you. These apps tend to factor in a lot more variables such as your:

  • BPM and heart rate
  • Age
  • Height
  • Level of activity
  • Even food intake

The combination of so many variables means this method is a lot more accurate than most. You can even buy devices such as Fitbit that you wear so it constantly notes your activity. Just remember – even apps might make mistakes and can’t keep track of everything so these won’t always be 100% correct.

The Cheat way

Finally, if all this math seems unnecessary and it’s too much work to input every single facet of your life into a device, there is a simpler way. All you have to do is deduct 20% from how many calories the elliptical says you burned. This figure is a lot more accurate than the machine’s reading for most people and it’s a quick practical solution if you don’t really want to waste so much time calculating numbers.


So how accurate are elliptical calorie counters? Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to accurately calculate how many calories you will burn on an elliptical. You’re constantly gaining calories and burning them. It’s how your body keeps functioning.

Knowing how many calories you’re burning can be helpful in regards to managing your weight. But progress can mean a lot of things, even the numbers growing smaller on the scale or simply feeling better about yourself. So, use these methods, but remember to focus on what’s important.


You can also check out the Apple Fitness Store, Garmin Fitness Tech Store, and the Fitbit Store for more cool and in-demand fitness wearable tech gadgets.


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