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Should I believe the elliptical?

I am 5'2'' and 130 lbs. The brand new ellipticals at my brand new gym say I have burned 300 calories after 30 minutes on the elliptical. I use 10 incline, resistance high set to 9, low set to 2 on interval training.

My question is, for those of you who have been into fitness for a long time, does 300 calories sound reasonable? Should I believe that number? It seems high to me and I don't want to sabatoge myself.

Thank you in advance.

Tue. Jul 10, 10:30pm

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Probably not; I am about your size and in good shape, and I can only burn 10 calories a minute at a full-out sprint.

The closest you can get to accurate burn is with a heart-rate monitor, and even then it can be as much as 15 percent off.

If you feel like you are working hard (can talk in short bursts but not carry on a conversation), you may be burning 7-8 calories a minute. If you feel like you are doing about the same amount of work as a brisk walk, it's probably only about 5 calories a minute.

In the search bar on the bulletin board main page, type in "calories burned" for a ton of other threads on this topic. The link below may work, too.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007, 10:51 PM

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I agree with pp and I wouldn't put much stock in the number that a machine gives you. Do you use that number to make decisions about how you eat during the day? What do you do with the information? I'll be interested to hear what others say, but I generally don't pay attention to the calories burned output - at least I don't anymore. I used to factor that in - well, I burned 300 calories on the treadmill, so I have more calories to play with, etc. I never really got anywhere! Now I just make sure to challenge myself on the machine - make sure I'm not just going through the motions - and I pay more attention to the calories I put in vs. the calories I supposedly burn on the machines.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007, 8:50 AM

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don't believe the machines. But you can use this link to get a different estimate, and of course, a heart rate monitor will be the closest measurement.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007, 10:34 AM

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question for op

op- Do you enter in your weight on the elliptical? At my gym I know all the machines are programed for a person that weighs 150 pounds. It might be that your elliptical is programed the same way. Because it would be really hard to burn 300 calories in a half an hour if you only weigh 130 pounds....I weigh 155 and it takes me a half hour to burn 300 calories on a particular elliptical machine at the gym- and I really feel like I am giving it everything I've got. The best thing to do might be to buy a heart rate monitor- the polar brand- you have to enter in all your height/weight info and it will calculate the number of calories burned based on your heart rate.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007, 3:39 PM

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OP here...

Yes I enter my weight and my age, that's all it asks me. And yes it does affect how I eat during the day. I have 1,200 net calories a day, if the machine says I burned 300 calories, I will eat those 300 calories. I don't want to go above or below my 1,200 by very much.

So how can I get the most accurate measurement? I am willing to spend some money to get something more accurate.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007, 8:05 PM

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Heart-rate monitor. I use the Polar F6. It gives me a read on the basics heart rate, calories burned, exercise time. Also tells if you are in your target "heart-rate zone." I got it for $80 at my sporting good store. They have other models too.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007, 8:29 PM

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OP again

Well I thought I would try another machine, to see if it gave me a different number. It's not an elliptical, but almost. And it's very fancy shmancy and new so I thought it might be more accurate... gave me almost the same number after 30 minutes, about 50 calories higher but it was a little bit more of a tough work out. So I'm thinking it's accurate.

Thanks for the responses!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007, 10:08 PM

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Here's a link to a site that has a specific calculator for the elliptical, and other activities. (

Click on "Precor EFX 546 Elliptical Calculator" in the calculators section. You can put in your strides per minute and resistance level.

I bet you are burning about 200 calories max. If you put in 120 strides per minute, and resistance of 6 (average of your interval number listed above), you get 198 calories in 30 minutes. To burn 300, you'd have to be at resistance of 9 and 170 strides per minute for the WHOLE time.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007, 11:29 PM

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i used the link 11:29 put and it told me if i biked for 1 hour for 12 miles i would only burn 29 calories!!! is this right???

Thursday, July 12, 2007, 7:06 AM

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What did you enter for your weight? I just entered "130 lbs" "1 hr" and "12 miles", and it gave 413 calories.

Thursday, July 12, 2007, 8:34 AM

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my bad i entered 9lbs instead of 9stone!! thank you though

Thursday, July 12, 2007, 9:55 AM

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I heard that the elliptical may not be off that much from a personal trainer. I do fat burn for 55 min and I weigh 145 at 5'6" with approx 8900 strides for the total workout period (182 - 189 / min), ramp heiaght varies based on the program (5 - 12), and I burn 560 - 578 - depending on number of strides

Thursday, July 12, 2007, 12:50 PM

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maybe if you are going downhilll and not pedaling haha.....

Thursday, July 12, 2007, 1:22 PM

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What makes you guys think that site is more accurate than the machines? Just curious... if all machines are so close in their estimation, and sites are usually lower, why do we trust the one over the other?

Thursday, July 12, 2007, 5:58 PM

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A science lesson on calories

Any website is based on generally accepted mathematical formulas. I would also bet that the manufacturers want you to keep using their machines and "pad" the calories burned a little bit.

A calorie is is the amount of energy, or heat, it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius.

One of the ways doctors estimate how many calories you burn throughout the day is with metabolic equivalents (MET values). It first must be noted that MET values are different for every person, but you can find a list of estimated values at (just download their PDF file).

(kcal burned) = (MET value) X (BMI/24) X (duration of activity in hours)

The MET value for elliptical is not listed, but I will give it "8.0" compared to other moderate effort activities. BMI for 5'2" and 130 pounds is 23.8.

Calories burned on the elliptical in 30 minutes:
8.0 x (23.8/24) x (30 minutes) = 238 calories

Just for comparison's sake:
I calculated my personal stats for biking to work this morning, which is mostly uphill and I have to work pretty hard. I rode at about an 11 mph pace.

According to my heart-rate monitor, I burned 250 calories.
According to the MET formula from the site:
8.0 x (21.3/24) x (36 minutes) = 255 calories burned

Friday, July 13, 2007, 9:25 AM

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Don't believe it

My eliptical says the same sort of thing. But I bought a little gadget that has my weight,height, age etc programmed in and that actually monitors my heartrate. I burn about 1/2 what the elliptical says. Bummer, eh?

Friday, July 13, 2007, 9:46 PM

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Well, I bought the heart rate monitor, and did the same work out as I was before, and the machine is only about 50 calories off... so not a big deal. Trust your machines!

Saturday, July 14, 2007, 9:38 PM

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Yes you should belive it. My machacine says the same thing. When i work out for 15min i burn about 150cal and when i work out for 30min i burn about 300cal. Lost 12lbs in 5weeks working out 15min 4x week. Now iam working out 30min. 4x a week. And i can't wait to see my results. I also limited my sugar intake. Thats makes a big difference.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009, 3:42 PM

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I used to believe the machines. I would burn about 450 calories in 30 minutes on the elliptical. Then I got a hr monitor and it said I was only buring 300 calories in those same 30 minutes. Big bummer.
I would imput my age and weight into the elliptical, plus it read my hr off of the sensors so I am not sure why there was such a difference, but it still is like that.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009, 4:14 PM

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Another vote for don't believe the machine. There is always a difference between what my hrm says and what the machine says. My monitor is going to be more accurate, since I have the chest strap on, and it's got my weight, height, age etc.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009, 6:14 PM

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Also there is a difference for males and females too. Males will burn more and females less because of muscle mass and whatnot.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009, 8:41 PM

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i have some great news for you

you can disregard most of everything everyone else says. Actually, you can be assured the 300 is actually a minimum. At least. It's true, the most accurate calculation will occur using a heart rate monitor. And, the precor's support the rate monitor transmitter. Side by side comparison will show that you're burning more. Remember, sitting on the couch for an hour is burning 100 calories. So you bet you're burning 300 at a moderate pace. I put in about 12 miles a day on the precor. I get my my HR above 200 sometimes. My resting is 35. it's an awesome machine. You should try staying on it for 4 plus house. I did.. i actually did 28 miles on it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009, 11:39 PM

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My HR monitor says 189 after 25 min and the elliptical says 381...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009, 12:11 PM

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I never believe the elliptical. You have to get a heart rate monitor to really know what's going on.

Saturday, November 21, 2009, 7:25 AM

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Must Use a Heart Rate Monitor

If your machine is not taking your heart rate into consideration when it calculates the amount of calories burned, then there is absolutely no guarantee of accuracy.

An athelete can peddle his elliptical machine 50 cycles per minute for 30 minutes and burn only 100 calories, because he really doesn't have to work that hard to do 50 cycles per minute. He's just cruising along having a good time and his heart rate is not elevated very much at all.

But at 50 cycles per minute, An out-of-shape person can easily exceed his maximum heart rate (220-age). His heart is beating almost to the point of failure and this in turn is burning calories (lots of them). At the end of the 30 minutes this person will easily exceed 300 calories burned (and hopefully will live to tell about it).

If you don't have a heart rate monitor, the calories reported by your machine can still be useful. But don't think of them as actual calories. Think of them as some arbitrary 'unit'. You can use these units of measure to help you gage your progress. For example, your machine told you that you progressed 300 'Units" in 30 minutes. Try and maintain that rate or increase it going forward.

Do not fall to the temptation of using your machine's calculations as an excuse to reward yourself with an extra slice of cake for desert that evening.

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