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Exercise Machines LIE!

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Just when you thought you had calorie burning at the gym all figured out, this Chicago Tribune article throws a monkey wrench in your whole program.

woman on treadmill

Vivian Manning-Schaffel: It says the number of calories burned on many fitness machines are merely "guesstimates," and can be as much as 25 percent to 30 percent off -- for better or worse. It's because these machines use weight, heart rate, and oxygen consumption to approximate the amount of calories burned, but they can't capture how much carbon dioxide you produce.

Elliptical and cross-country machines have the strongest tendency to be off, but as long as you enter your weight, treadmills and exercise bikes are cited as among the most accurate. Just don't lean on the rails of your treadmill or stairclimber -- it can throw off your calorie counts by as much as 40 percent!

And then there's the complex matter of your emotional state: "A number of factors unrelated to calorie burning can influence your heart rate -- environmental temperature, your own temperature, your anxiety level, etc. Your heart might start racing when you're simply sitting there, not moving a muscle, listening to your boss give you a raise -- or a pink slip," the article explains.

So how can you score a decent calorie count at the gym? One expert in the piece says there are no devices that can measure your calorie expenditure with pinpoint accuracy, but, the bodybugg (the gizmo featured on "The Biggest Loser") uses a motion sensor and measures your skin temp for a more accurate read.

And whatever you do, don't lean on those rails!

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