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Treadmills, Elliptical Trainers, Stair Climbers, and What Not.

  • By Vishwa on General

  • March 22, 2010

A client who frequents the gym asked me, “Coach, is it correct when people come and tell me that they burnt some precise number of calories on the treadmill? Do you think that the number provided by these machines is reliable?” Ugh! Don’t be deluded when these cardiovascular machines gives accurate numbers of calories burnt for a stipulated time. Allow me to explain about this falsity and why people should reason rightly and not go gaga about calories burnt on these cardiovascular machines like treadmills, etc.

We should know that basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the largest factor in determining overall metabolic rate. BMR is the amount of energy expended while at rest in a neutrally temperate environment. More importantly, it should be known that each individual will have a different BMR, so the amount of calories they expend is relative, for the same reason none will burn the same amount of calories for a given task. It is because BMR is determined by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, as follows:

Genetics: Some people are born with faster metabolisms, some with slower metabolisms. For example, blacks generally are born with faster metabolism.
Gender: Men have greater muscle mass and a lower body fat percentage. This means that they have higher basal metabolic rate.
AGE: BMR reduces with age. Aging causes muscle loss which slows BMR.
Body Surface Area: This is a reflection of your height and weight. The greater your Body Surface Area factor, the higher your BMR.
Body Fat percentage: The lower your body fat percentage, the higher your BMR.
Diet: Starvation or serious abrupt calorie – reduction can dramatically reduce BMR by up to 30 percent.
Body temperature / Health: For every increase of 0.5C in internal temperature of the body, the BMR increases by about 7 percent. The chemical reactions in the body actually occur more quickly at higher temperatures. So a patient with a high fever would have an increase of about 50 percent in BMR.
External temperature: Temperature outside the body also affects basal metabolic rate.
Glands: Thyroxin (produced by the thyroid gland) is a key BMR – regulator which speeds up the metabolic activity of the body. The more thyroxin produced, the higher the BMR. Like thyroxin, adrenaline also increases the BMR.
Exercise: Physical exercise not only influences body weight by burning calories, it also helps raise your BMR by building extra lean tissue, which can be gained only through weight training and not on cardio machines. Lean tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue. So we burn calories even when sleeping.
Age: In youth, the BMR is higher; age brings less lean body mass and slows the BMR.
Height: Tall, thin people have higher BMR’s.
Growth: Children and pregnant women have higher BMR’s.
Body composition: The more lean tissue, the higher the BMR; the more fat tissue, the lower the BMR.
Stress: Stress hormones can raise the BMR.
Malnutrition: Malnutrition lowers the BMR.

Now, considering the above facts we can surely make out that calorie burning depends on many factors. Now tell me, how many calories Usain Bolt, three – time Olympic gold medalist, would burn on a treadmill when he walks on the machine for half an hour and how many calories an average guy would burn on the treadmill assuming that the average guy uses the machine for the same duration and speed? Do you think that the calorie burnt would be the same between them because both individuals would have the same genetic and external factors which are mentioned above? Well! I believe you would know the answer for the above questions, for some of the above mentioned factors would compliment Usain Bolt in burning far greater calories.

We should know that a treadmill, for example, as a cardiovascular exercising machine will not recognize the genetics, age, weight, height, body composition, body surface area, body fat percentage, body temperature, external temperature, and glands, of the individual. Contrarily, a treadmill calculates the calorie burning in relation to distance, time, and perhaps the speed in which the individual utilizes the machine. It thus would be erroneous to claim that these cardiovascular machines would have burnt the exact calories. Moreover, calories burnt on a treadmill will be far less when the same individual runs on a field. Please note that when the individual runs on a fixed surface (play ground) he has to exert against inertia (the tendency of a body to resist acceleration) and generate force to move ahead, as the ground surface is inert in nature; whereas, this is not the case on a motorized treadmill, as the treadmill aids you to generate force. Of course, the use of cardio machines as a tool for warming up the body and its contextual use in other circumstances like bad weather, etc cannot be denied. But let it not be sole instrument for you to measure you health and fitness.

Of course, you cannot change your genetics or gender for an elevated BMR, but you can surely work towards an elevated BMR by reducing your body fat percentage, proper diet, and by increasing your lean mass. Fortunately, weight training comes to your rescue, as it has a dual purpose, for it can lower body fat percent, and, at the same time, increase lean tissue. Whereas, relying on any cardiovascular exercise may help you to lose fat in the earlier stages and when it comes building muscle it may never ever help you. Contrarily, any slow paced cardiovascular exercise will have an adverse effect on muscle gain.

Scientific studies have invariably stated that slow paced cardiovascular exercises do have a predisposition towards muscle loss. BEWARE! For, you may be genuinely not assisting yourself in blindly following a cardiovascular regime alone. In all probability you are better off implementing weights into your routine rather than spending hours on the treadmill counting calories. In addition, studies have clearly stated that weight training also helps redeem your cardiovascular fitness, for weight training was touted to be only good for flaunting muscles. For example, performing a set of high repetition squat can powerfully effect your lungs and heart. Also, as an added advantage you can see how good a squat is to build strength and muscle in your legs and the calories it burns.

Weight training burns a lot of calories, in addition, it helps build lean tissue. But please don’t ask me about the number of calories burnt when you weight train, for nobody can accurately state the amount of calories it burns, but the whole scientific community knows for sure that it burns a hell lot of calories, so does high intensity interval training(HIIT), which is exceptionally better than performing steady paced cardiovascular exercise. Engaging in the above mentioned activities would definitely provide you an edge. You have to just take the first step and include weight training into your routine, for you will never regret in doing so.

9 thoughts on “Treadmills, Elliptical Trainers, Stair Climbers, and What Not.

  1. Vishwa,
    The facts stated above are really surprising and taken out the myths on treadmills n other stuffs like dat:) …
    proud to be in the iron cult family 🙂

    1. I would also like to tell you people that if you know how to sweat out well on a treadmill, or you know well to use them more productively, it is a good tool for better health, but please don’t have these false ideas that is THE best thing to do.

    1. Yes, I do agree that many have achieved great help from these tools, and people should continue to use these tools, for they can develop extreme levels of endurance. But the problem arises when people who just wiggle their legs on these machines and make claims which seems very inappropriate. It is the blind belief that I am trying to target. I am thereby providing other saner alternatives. Todd Reinhard, who happens to be my Master himself uses the treadmill to an enormous extent, but at the same time he lifts weights and does many other things. The claim by people that these machines are the be all and end all of achieving fitness is simply false. I am asking them to integrate a variety of movements to achieve overall fitness.
      Last but not the least, I am very sorry if I have hurt anybody’s sentiment.

      Be Great: Integrate.

  2. Hey Bro, nice dose again. Do you think a sane mix of HIIT, slow endurance along with an optimal weight routine/week will also benefit? HIIT everyday might be an overdose for few among us. Hence taking light in between the heavy training days will help? How abut the caloric intake during such turbulence periods? Increase intake with heavier workouts and cut down during lighter days or otherwise?

  3. Thanks for the comment. Yes, very true, for HIIT can be counterproductive. It has to be designed according to the individual’s need. About the caloric intake, it depends. Perhaps, if an individual is looking for fat loss, it will help if he cuts his calories on lighter days, and if someone just wants to maintain his physique, dropping calories would not help. Everything depends on the individuals intention. I hope this helps.

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