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The truth about cardio machine displays

Bookmark and Share Climbing off your favorite cardio machine, with sweat stinging your eyes, you squint to read the little red numbers summarizing your workout. But what really stings is that you may not be able to believe the numbers you're seeing.

Josh Whalen, a fitness specialist at Virtua's Rohrer Center for HealthFitness advises the machine read-outs should be used only as a guideline. "Cardio machine calorie displays are usually designed to provide the most accurate readings for people with extremely lean muscle mass - those who burn the most calories," explains Whalen. "People with more of a mid-range or higher body fat could burn a lot fewer calories."

Still, the read-outs do serve a purpose. Exercising on the same machine can help you chart your calorie-burn progress from workout to workout. "While the number may not reflect what you actually burned, an increase in the number over time means your workouts are becoming more effective," says Whalen.

More accurate options
Whalen recommends a heart monitor for the most accurate data on calories burned and other critical numbers such as heart rate. "About 30 percent of our members work out regularly wearing a heart monitor," he says. "We encourage our members to follow very specific fitness goals, and the monitors help by providing the most precise measurements of progress."

The monitors work simply by entering information such as age, weight, gender and resting heart rate. The small device, which is worn across the chest, accurately determines how many calories have been burned.

Donna Coburn finds her heart rate monitor extremely valuable: "With my trainer's help, I was able to lose 50 pounds. I knew I was getting the weight off safely, and it was motivating to have an accurate picture of how many calories I was really burning." What's more, Coburn can believe what she's seeing.