Read Mailbag: Tips to Burn More Calories


Your Treadmill Sensei gets tons of questions asking about fitness or health advice. I try not to answer those questions because they really are something people should be asking their doctors or other health professionals. While I have been in the fitness industry for over 20 years now that does not qualify me (or anyone else doing fitness reviews) to give you medical advice.

That being said, I can give technical advice and my OPINION on things. If you want to know what I THINK about something and are prepared to take those THOUGHTS with a grain of salt, then I’ll babble all day…especially if you’re asking technical questions. I workout every day myself and can tell you about my own experiences.

Today we have a note from Linda. She is having problems with her elliptical’s heart rate monitoring system and its “Calories Burned” readings. Let’s see if we can help her out. Take it away, Linda!


I recently purchased an elliptical machine and am troubled by the number of Kcals I am burning…prior to the elliptical I had a treadmill and a 30 minute walk at 4 mph burned about 200 cal and covered a distance of about 2 miles.

On the elliptical, in 30 minutes I burn 65 Kcal, 10-12 mph (about 70 watts), level 5, cover 5 miles. Now something isn’t quite right cuz I’m sweating profusely at 30 minutes and I had to have burned more than 65 cal. I could walk 5 miles at a leisurely pace and burn more than 65 calories.

Age 48 Wt 165

I know these machines aren’t all that accurate but this is ridiculous…Is there a formula to convert Kcal to cal.

Appreciate your thoughts. -Linda


Thanks for your note. From not being able to take a look at the machine, it seems like the pulse grip heart rate monitor on it either isn’t reading correctly or isn’t calibrated correctly. The quickest fix would be to use a heart rate chest strap instead. The chest straps or HR monitor watches are much more accurate. The units should burn a similar amount of Calories during similar workouts. The main advantage of an elliptical is going to be the low to no impact workouts.

A KCal and a Calorie are actually 2 names for the same thing in this respect – KCal is an abbreviation for Calories like we’re talking about (basically “food calories”).

I’d suggest giving the manufacturer’s tech support a call and seeing if they can either recalibrate it for you or get you a new unit. If you like the machine and don’t want to worry about the less-than-accurate results, pick up a good heart rate monitor.

While we’re talking about Calories burned during an elliptical workout, I thought I’d go in to a bit more detail on it. First off, the 750-1000 burned Calories per hour some manufacturers claim isn’t true for 99% of people working out on the machines. More than likely, that is just the top amount they encountered during months or years of testing. In general you’d be looking at 450 to 500 Calories per hour, which still isn’t bad at all.

Truthfully, for a well-built man (say 170 lbs like your Treadmill Sensei…ok, maybe I’m not well-built, but I am around 170 lbs now) to lose 1000 Calories in an hour of running, he’d have to be able to maintain around 8 miles an hour for the entire time.

A few tips for getting the most Calorie burn:

  • Vary your work out: Use you elliptical’s resistance or incline levels to increase the intensity of your workout and push yourself to burn more Calories. This sort of workout can increase your metabolism for up to a full day after your workout.
  • Workout forward and backwards: Changing the direction of your workout changes the muscle groups being worked out and will increase your Calorie burn. Also, try changing your positioning on the elliptical itself to work different muscles.
  • Use hand weights while you work out: (anywhere from 2-15 pounds, depending on your conditioning) Yes, I know the upper body arms are they, but they won’t do anywhere near as much for you as a pair of hand weights will. Strength training is required to maximize your cardio workouts.
  • Multiple Sessions: A great way to maintain your Calorie burn is to do a few shorter (at least 15 minutes) workouts during the day. Once in the morning and once in the afternoon or evening is best. That way you keep your metabolism on increased burn mode for the entire day.
  • Most Important: Only YOU know what is right for YOU. If it doesn’t feel right to you, in spite of what the experts say, try something else. You have to enjoy what you’re doing in order to keep doing it. If you want it to last then make sure it doesn’t hurt!

I hope this helps, Linda! Thanks again for your note and stay fit!

-The Treadmill Sensei

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