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Fitness Formula Flaw Miscounts Calories

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tekochip
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Platinum
Juggling Performance
tekochip   2/18/2014 10:00:41 AM
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I've noticed that the calorie display on exercise equipment is mostly for show, and I'm sure the linearity of the display is probably not tightly specified.  I often wondered if the calorie display on exercise equipment was similar to the signal strength display on cell phones, and the manufacturers simply boost their consumption numbers in the hope that users will say, "hey, this machine gets me a better burn than that one, I'm always going to use this one."
 
I've often juggled with performance vs. code complexity when dealing with complicated formulas.  In small appliances, the very last thing you want to do is add a floating point library, so then you have to decide if you want piecewise linearization or a table.  When it comes to that decision I sometimes write both and compare the speed, accuracy and performance to decide which works best.


Charles Murray
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Blogger
Re: Juggling Performance
Charles Murray   2/18/2014 9:48:23 PM
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I agree, tekochip. I've worked out on machines that require little effort but offer big calorie counts. I've also worked out on machines that left me spent, only to tell me that I didn't burn many calories. There's seems to be little or no standardization between machines. As you say, it's for show. I suspect the energy-expenditure formulas used on these machines are pretty meaningless.

lmkmet88
User Rank
Iron
Not a Formula Flaw - A Fitness Model Change
lmkmet88   2/19/2014 11:55:48 AM
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Your question may have been better answered by your fitness professional in the gym rather than the manufacturer's representative of the treadmill.  You see up to about 4.0 MPH the model probably assumes you are walking (aka speed walking) but above that, it assumes you begin to jog/run which has a lower energy consumption because it is more energy efficient.  Thus the drop in caloriies per minute reflects that switch between locomotion mode - walking to jogging/running.  I suggest you try walking at 4.5 mph and then jog and you will feel for yourself which is less taxing on you. 

bobjengr
User Rank
Platinum
FITNESS FORMULA
bobjengr   2/19/2014 5:34:52 PM
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Mark.  I have a somewhat similar experience.  I exercise three times per week at Fitness Together in my hometown.  Recently, FT installed new equipment due to issues with maintenance and upkeep.  (They really do get continued use during a week.)  I go through the very same routine as you relative to weight, speed, incline, duration etc.  One other thing I do--check my pulse rate.  I noticed on the "new" elliptical a pulse rate that would indicate I'm just about to die.  Knowing this might not be the case, I transferred to an older elliptical to get a calibration, hopefully more accurate.  The two readings were wildly different.  I then got off the devices, sat for about 30 minutes to restore a resting pulse rate.  I then put on a heart-rate counter with receiver in the form of a watch.  The counter snaps around your chest.  Back on the new equipment--then a reading. HUGE ERROR relative to the machine.  30 minute resting--then on the old equipment.  Mush less trauma with this one.  I don't know if the issue is software or sensor reading the pulses but in either case not the least reliable.  Great post.   

TJ McDermott
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Blogger
Cruising speed
TJ McDermott   2/19/2014 9:01:00 PM
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Maybe you hit your optimum cruising speed and the machine is actually very accurate.

AnandY
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Gold
Re : Fitness Formula Flaw Miscounts Calories
AnandY   2/24/2014 10:58:23 AM
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@ Imkmet88, you have certainly made some interesting points but these are confusing at the same time. First, I couldn't decide whether you are just suggesting that it might be the case or you are sure that this is the case. Secondly, general view is that jogging or running burns more calories than walking or briskly walking. Is it the other way round actually?

Eric75
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Iron
Re: Juggling Performance
Eric75   2/25/2014 3:53:37 PM
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So you think calculating calories burned in a biological system is that simple? All the machines are just giving numbers based on some "average" user for which there is no standard. In order to really know for yourself, you need to also measure heart rate and oxygen consumption. Even if you trian with a heart rate monitor to keep that variable under control, it will also vary depending on what type of activity you are doing and what you have been eating. So it is best just not to worrry too much about calories burned and set perfomance based goals instead.

William K.
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Platinum
I work, not work out. Cheaper and more productive.
William K.   2/25/2014 8:49:04 PM
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I could never rationalize paying money to use a gym, when my daily routine usually provides adequate exercise. But now it seems that if one is going to use those machines then the display should show the power delivered, which they might be able to sell to the utilities, or at least be able to use to power the building. Dispaying watt-hours would be a more worthwhile display and also much easier to determine with good accuracy. Calories burned depends a bit on who is exercising, those who are quite fit can do the same thing and burn less, because they do it more efficiently. And probably that calculator in the machine is not able to handle that variable term. I would not be inclined to believe any of those numbers without being able to see the algorithm and formulas used to produce them. Otherwise they should be regarded as just so much "sunshine".

AnandY
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Gold
Re : Fitness Formula Flaw Miscounts Calories
AnandY   2/27/2014 2:35:06 AM
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@ bobjengr, well this is not error, this is blunder on part of manufacturer. It doesn't really matter if the problem lies with the sensor or the software but I suggest it must be something wrong with the software. Sensors as pieces of hardware may falter individually in sensing and displaying. There is little possibility that one kind of sensors are errant.

AnandY
User Rank
Gold
Re : Fitness Formula Flaw Miscounts Calories
AnandY   2/27/2014 2:36:55 AM
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@ Charles Murray, if energy expenditure formulas on these machines are flawed and meaningless, then what's the point in making something like this? If we look at the number of such machines around and take into consideration how many people rely on these for their fitness, it seems ridiculous that there is no standardization for these machines.

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