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Heart rate monitor calories

by (90)
Updated about 24 hours ago
Created April 07, 2012 at 10:23 PM

Do you use a heart rate monitor during your workouts and do you trust the calories burned info it provides? I have a Polar RS300x, about which I have read good reviews as far as accuracy. I typically do 1.5 hour workout comprised of weight training and 10-15 minutes on a rope climbing simulator for my cardio. As my name suggests I'm a paraplegic so leg work is not part of my routine.

Four weeks ago I was getting readings in the mid 1200's.Today was my first workout day in two weeks and it says 1640 for today. These readings have always seemed high to me but I'm looking for opinions. I should note that I leave the monitor running for an hour after my workout. I do this not as a cheat but to monitor the post workout benefits.

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303 · July 01, 2012 at 9:22 PM

I disagree, the machines are the least accurate, especially if you aren't able to enter your height, weight and gender. Also, as miked stated, your body will become more efficient at certain activities if trained for a prolonged period of time. I run marathon (I know, I know...) and burn FAR less calories doing so than the average body. Neverthless, I use a Garmin with HR monitor while running and trust the numbers on that - calories are all a rough estimate anyways, so I'd rather take the best estimates on everything and know it'll all "even out" in the end.

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322 · May 06, 2012 at 1:34 PM

Yeah my Polar HRM adds height weight, etc. I have just found I don't use it much anymore now going Paleo. What is the point? The point is overall health and I'm not into numbers and counting anymore.

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11557 · April 08, 2012 at 2:28 PM

Whoa, fancier than I've ever experienced. It's out of my zone!

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5904 · April 08, 2012 at 5:34 AM

My bike heart rate monitor and my watch both have weight, height, age, gender, and body composition inputs??

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20908 · April 08, 2012 at 1:06 AM

Well, calories (of work done) is easy to measure, it's just force X distance. The hard part is turning work done into calories burnt by the body to do that work. The general formula is that the body is 12.5% efficient at turning food into work, so I assume that those machines just multiply the work done by 8 (at least if I was the engineer designing it, that's what I'd do). As you get more efficient at something, then that measurement will be more and more wrong. An Olympic rower will burn many fewer calories than I would for the same distance rowed since they're much more efficient at it.

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11557 · April 08, 2012 at 12:26 AM

Really? My coach was kind of a crazy guy, but he always said that those elliptical/treadmill etc were absolutely the least accurate because of some study that found they were usually 20-50% inaccurate. He would make us do the same workout on different ergs (same stroke rate, same splits) then compare, and most machines had an upward bias. Maybe they are just all bad news...

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10 Answers

D60b434d731c50fd3ea86fe4fc52caf0
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145 · May 01, 2013 at 2:37 AM

I didn't look up your model of HRM (because I am lazy), but I think my Polar FT4 or 7 (can't remember) is extremely accurate. The watch does have inputs for age, height, and weight. It is important to have one with a chest strap for the best accuracy. If you have a chest strap, it is possible that your battery is low. I have gotten extreme readings when my battery was low before. Replaced the battery and no issues :-)

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0 · March 19, 2013 at 5:27 PM

Do these monitors take into count body temp and outside temp? You can burn a lot of calories sitting on your butt if it's cold enough outside.

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189 · September 18, 2012 at 6:35 AM

the polars are pretty accurate for steady state cardio... not HIIT or weight training as those are anaerobic and our calories burned are different than when having an elevated HR in an aerobic state.

you can put in your resting hr, bodyfat, vo2max, gender, age, weight, height... i think even more than that too.

the HRM will be WAY more accurate than a machine at the gym- the elliptical that tells me i burned 300 calories in 30 minutes when i didn't sweat... haha, my HRM says more like 120 which sounds correct seeing i didn't work as hard as i do on the stepmill.

also the polars or any brand with the chest strap will be a lot more accurate than the kind that just goes on your wrist.

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26182 · September 18, 2012 at 1:45 AM

I have a garmin GPS plus Heart Rate Monitor. You input your age, height, weight, and V02 Max into the watch, and it is supposed to have a very accurate calorie measure. So I put it to the test:

Calories by Distance and Duration http://postimage.org/image/o9w5f5vq9. As you can see the calories and distance are almost a perfect match (r2 = .98). Calories by Intensity and Max Heart Rate http://postimage.org/image/imzshot7l. While more of the Track workouts (or HIIT) are on the upper level of max heart rate, there is no correlation to calorie burn. This is based on 305's calculation, not actual calories -- i.e. the advanced calorie calculation is essentially just a measure of distance.

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4266 · September 18, 2012 at 12:39 AM

I wouldn't put any stock into the calories that any machine tells you you burned. All you are seeing is some algorithm some programmer put in there. It's not actually THE calories that YOU burned.

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20353 · June 03, 2012 at 5:52 PM

I think your reading are a bit high. I would record at the end of the workout and also at an hour after.

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0 · April 22, 2012 at 11:01 AM

A lot of the polar watches now allow you to input age, height, weight, gender etc - which makes them more accurate. not sure they do one that accounts for you % lean muscle mass though - this would add to the accuracy of the readings a great deal.

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5904 · April 08, 2012 at 5:37 AM

This in no way answers the question, but I found this online and it looks pretty detailed and takes in to account your whole day.

http://www.health-calc.com/diet/energy-expenditure-advanced

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20908 · April 08, 2012 at 12:23 AM

No, those things are just pure guesses. I'd trust the ones on the machines (Elipticals, Rowers, etc) more because they measure the work done and then account for the (average) efficiency of the human body of turning food into work (i.e., they usually multiply by 8). But those heart-rate monitors only are counting your heart rate and somehow turning that into calories burnt? I put no faith in that number.

510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73
20908 · April 08, 2012 at 1:06 AM

Well, calories (of work done) is easy to measure, it's just force X distance. The hard part is turning work done into calories burnt by the body to do that work. The general formula is that the body is 12.5% efficient at turning food into work, so I assume that those machines just multiply the work done by 8 (at least if I was the engineer designing it, that's what I'd do). As you get more efficient at something, then that measurement will be more and more wrong. An Olympic rower will burn many fewer calories than I would for the same distance rowed since they're much more efficient at it.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194
11557 · April 08, 2012 at 12:26 AM

Really? My coach was kind of a crazy guy, but he always said that those elliptical/treadmill etc were absolutely the least accurate because of some study that found they were usually 20-50% inaccurate. He would make us do the same workout on different ergs (same stroke rate, same splits) then compare, and most machines had an upward bias. Maybe they are just all bad news...

C0d63e15a4e21b29c49d0380d87894b3
303 · July 01, 2012 at 9:22 PM

I disagree, the machines are the least accurate, especially if you aren't able to enter your height, weight and gender. Also, as miked stated, your body will become more efficient at certain activities if trained for a prolonged period of time. I run marathon (I know, I know...) and burn FAR less calories doing so than the average body. Neverthless, I use a Garmin with HR monitor while running and trust the numbers on that - calories are all a rough estimate anyways, so I'd rather take the best estimates on everything and know it'll all "even out" in the end.

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11557 · April 07, 2012 at 10:30 PM

Seeing as you can't add your weight, height, age, gender, and body composition into watches, I think the short answer is "not entirely". It's a ball park figure that tends to over estimate, so take it with a grain of salt. I remember my couch telling us to assume that there is 10% error in calorie readings (20-50% for treadmills, elliptical etc).

Also, I have a heart condition so my resting heart rate is faster than your average person, so I don't know if I didn't program those watches right, but mine always seemed like it waaay overestimated for me. That is another thing that might be a confounding variable for some people.

6b8d12fc3e43179f9ae1765a4d1a9dc2
5904 · April 08, 2012 at 5:34 AM

My bike heart rate monitor and my watch both have weight, height, age, gender, and body composition inputs??

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194
11557 · April 08, 2012 at 2:28 PM

Whoa, fancier than I've ever experienced. It's out of my zone!

44349dd8bf3bc226731d2f6bd42e8124
322 · May 06, 2012 at 1:34 PM

Yeah my Polar HRM adds height weight, etc. I have just found I don't use it much anymore now going Paleo. What is the point? The point is overall health and I'm not into numbers and counting anymore.

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