How Accurate Are Treadmill Calorie Counters?

Getting on the treadmill is probably one of the most popular forms of cardio exercise.

I don’t know about you, but personally, I struggle to run for more than 20 minutes at a time when I’m outside. Put me on that treadmill and I’ll go for hours. 

How Accurate Are Treadmill Calorie Counters?

It’s also a great way to ensure that you can always participate in some exercise since you’re not at risk of the elements.

In the extreme heat, you can run with air conditioning, in the cold, with some heat, and no more excusing yourself from a run due to the rain. 

And of course, with a treadmill, you can set everything to your personal preference. You choose your pace, intensity, and incline.

And all the while you can keep an eye on how many calories you’re burning. This handy feature would always help me to put one foot in front of the other when I was close to giving up. 

Since calorie burning is a pretty important part of motivation, it’s safe to say that all treadmill-lovers are asking the same question.

Is the calorie counter actually accurate? Well, good news – the answer is yes! Kind of. 

There is never going to be a possibility of that exercise equipment being fully 100% completely accurate just because there are certain factors of calorie burning that these machines are not able to take into account.

But as long as you put your weight in when you start your workout should be pretty close.

If your treadmill doesn’t have this feature it won’t be as close but it’ll still give a relatively accurate approximation. 

How Does A Treadmill Count How Many Calories You’ve Burned? 

So, we’ve established that calorie counters in treadmills can give a rough estimation of the calories that you’ve burned.


But it is important to recognize that the number you see on your screen won’t be completely accurate.

In fact, most treadmill calorie counters tend to overestimate the amount that you’ve burned by roughly 15-20% 

This is because your treadmill will use a fairly simple formula to calculate how much you’ve burned.

This hasn’t got the mechanisms or ability to factor in your fitness level, your weight, your age, and many more influential aspects of calorie burning. 

Instead, your treadmill will use the information it is provided to calculate your calorie burning, such as the speed at which you’re running, the incline that you’ve set, how efficiently you run, and the length of your strides.

For best caloric results you’ll want to keep your hands off those handlebars, hold good posture, and run at a fairly consistent steady pace. 

Other than just looking at your calorie tracker, you can also monitor your heart rate on most treadmills.

You are aiming to keep your heart rate at a target bpm.

However, it is much more important to listen to your body, your health, and to keep yourself safe than it is to hit certain numbers during any run. Try not to push yourself too far. 

Reasons Why Personal Factors Matter

You may be wondering why these personal factors are so important. How much can they really make a difference? Well, actually, they can make quite a lot of difference: 

  • Fitness Level – The newer you are to physical activity, the more calories you will burn. Once you become more efficient at the activity, the calories you burn start to decrease. 
  • Body Composition – When you have a higher amount of body fat than muscle mass, burning calories takes longer than it does for those whose bodies have become more efficient through building muscle. 
  • Body Size – Those with bigger body frames than others who still weigh the same will burn more calories than those with a smaller body frame. 
  • Age – Unfortunately, as we grow older the number of calories we burn dwindles down. Those who weigh the same but are younger will burn more calories than you. 

Reliable Alternatives

So if treadmill calorie trackers aren’t quite as accurate as your hoping for, are there any other more reliable alternatives? Unfortunately not. 

Whatever calorie counting device you are using, it’s almost certain that those numbers are not going to be 100% accurate.

I definitely wouldn’t be planning to consume additional calories based on the amount you’ve burned per session as it’ll likely put you in a caloric surplus rather than a deficit

Sure those numbers are accurate enough for ballpark figures. Or to push you a little bit further in your training.

Say you hit 200 calories last time, it’d be fine to say okay well I’ll stop at 350 this time, for example. But this is really just to improve your goals and endurance more than it is to accurately track your calories. 

And if you really are hoping to track your calories accurately, I would advise that you always take around 20% of your total calories off the final number for a closer representation of what you have actually burned. 

Final Thoughts

So are treadmill calorie counters accurate? It’s a yes and no answer really. They tend to be as accurate as they can be.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are very accurate.

You are usually looking at a discrepancy of about 20% between what that screen is saying, and how much you’ve actually burned. 

As mentioned above, calorie counting can be a very good way to track and monitor your progress at home or in the gym, but it shouldn’t be everything.

How you are finding a workout, for example, are you finding it a little difficult or super easy? Where is your heart rate sat at? How did you find it an hour after your workout?

These are all important questions to ask yourself that may give you a much clearer picture of how well you are doing during each session. 

Sure, numbers can help you track, but you should always prioritize your health and your safety over anything else. 

Jenna Priestly