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Fitness FAQs

  -- By SparkPeople Experts
Should I use the Cardio Tracker or my machine to figure out how many calories my exercise burned?

SparkPeople’s database estimates the number of calories you burn during exercise, based on generally-accepted rates of calories burned for various activities. Our tracker also bases your individual calorie burn on your weight, because people of different weights burn calories at different rates. (A person who weighs more will burn more calories doing the same activity as a person who weighs less.)

Cardio machines are also estimating your calorie burn. Some can be more accurate than others—for example, if you input variables like your age, height, weight, and gender. However, even the actual machine you use tends to be inaccurate—and some overestimate calories burned by up to 30%.

Both SparkPeople's cardio tracker and cardio machines estimate the number of calories you burn. Estimates are always a problem because you never really know how hard a person is working. For example, two different people could go on a 2-mile walk at a speed of 4 mph, and that could be very easy for a fit person (so they’d burn fewer calories), yet very difficult for a beginner (so they’d burn more calories). Because these exercise trackers don’t really know how hard you are working, the estimates can be a little off.

The best way to monitor calorie burn is to wear a good heart rate monitor. This works better because your heart rate is an accurate measure of how hard you are working, and is directly related to oxygen consumption during exercise (which is the true predictor of calories burned, but you’d have to visit an exercise lab and be hooked up to a machine for that kind of accuracy).

Why does the Fitness Tracker not calculate calories burned through strength training?

Although you will burn calories from strength training, that number is going to vary widely from person to person. It will depend on how much weight you are using, how many sets/reps you are doing, how much rest you take in between sets and how hard you are working. Therefore any estimates would not be reliable. Just consider this to be an extra bonus to your weekly goals!

Circuit training is in the Fitness Tracker, since it is both a cardio and strength training workout. Click here for a description of circuit training.

How do I lose weight from a specific place on my body?

There is no way to target weight loss to a specific area of the body because your body decides where it wants to put on weight and where it wants to take it off. The midsection is a common "problem" area for many people.

The best way to lose fat is through cardiovascular exercise. It is important to do a variety of exercises to strengthen these areas, but until that excess fat is gone, you will not see the muscle definition. For example, if you’re not doing cardio, crunches are not going to help get the 6-pack you’ve been hoping for. Regular cardio exercise at a level that’s challenging for you is your best bet.

How do I add my own exercises to the Fitness Plans?

Go to your fitness plan. Click on the name of an exercise that our plan has given you. Then you’ll want to "swap" each of the exercises in your plan for an exercise of your choice, which you'll have to enter yourself.

A pop-up screen will appear, saying "Swap Exercise". Instead of simply clicking on a different demo, you can click on the "User Entered" tab on the top right. Here you can enter the exercise name (such as "Leg Extension Machine"), the number of reps you do, and the number of sets. After entering this info, go back to the Swap Screen and click on the name. It will automatically replace our demo with your exercise.

You'll have to do this for all of your exercises, but once you do, the changes you made will be saved and pop up again on all your strength training days.

I've been eating healthy and exercising, but I'm still not losing. What am I doing wrong?

It is very important to really track your food and exercise calories, because nine times out of ten, "mysteries" about not losing weight are due to underestimating calories consumed or overestimating calories burned. If you feel like you’re doing everything right and just not losing, the "Related Content" articles on the right will help.