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Are Treadmill Readings Accurate? How To Lose Weight With Inaccurate Readings

When using a treadmill to measure your speed, distance, and calories burned, you’re probably wondering how accurate the readings are. Personal trainers usually start off the conversation by saying that treadmills are notoriously inaccurate, but then they follow up with a list of reasons why a treadmill works for them.

When you start out with running on a treadmill using a treadmill with inaccurate readings can be a real challenge. This is because you have to learn how to run at a pace that feels right for you, and to do this you will need to learn how to correctly pace yourself with a timer. The good thing about learning to run with a treadmill is that you have a spot to run that is safe and you can even run in the rain if you like.

You need to learn how to read the treadmill results. You have to understand the machine and its ways in order to achieve your fitness goals. 

Are Treadmill Calorie Counters Accurate?

We’ve all been there: you hop on the treadmill, ready to walk or run your calories off. But after 30 minutes on the machine, you exit feeling winded, sweaty, and unsatisfied. Why? Because you just burned 100 calories? That’s like less than half an Oreo!

Unfortunately, many U.S. treadmills still rely on these inaccurate countermeasures, and there’s no way to know how accurate they are. Except for one thing: you can always burn more calories than your treadmill says you did.

Treadmill calibrations are a pain, but it’s something you have to get right if you’re going to get maximum results from your workout. If you don’t calibrate your treadmill properly, for example, you could spend 23 minutes on a 10-minute workout, or vice versa.  And that could screw up your workout plan.

It’s also important to remember that just because the treadmill says you’ve burned 1,000 calories, that doesn’t mean you’ve burned off 1,000 calories.

Are Treadmill Distances Accurate?

While most treadmills display running or walking distance, there are a few things to consider before trusting them. Treadmills tend to vary in accuracy from brand to brand and model to model, and some even have variations from one treadmill to the next.

For instance, some treadmills do not have sensors to measure each step. Instead, they estimate distance by multiplying how fast you move by how long you’ve been moving. This can lead to inaccuracies that are greater than you might think.

Are Treadmills Accurate for Speed?

To see the correct running speed on the treadmill, you have to follow the instructions that appear on the screen to calibrate the speed. This means that you need to turn on the treadmill, stand on the belt, press “calibrate” on the touchscreen, and then jog at a steady pace.

You need to do this for several minutes to make sure that the reading is accurate. However, you should not make the mistake of assuming that the speed shown on the screen is the actual speed that you are moving. A speed reading can be wrong for two reasons: the default calibration may be incorrect, or the belt may slip.

Factors Affecting the Accuracy of your Treadmill

Most people who use a treadmill understand that the speed and distance displays are not always accurate. But there are a number of factors that affect the accuracy of the readings, and knowing about them can help you understand how to get the most from your treadmill.

While treadmills have been around for years, the technology for measuring distance and speed has improved. The most advanced treadmills will track your distance and speed during a workout, and provide you with your estimated calories burned, and average and maximum pace and speed.

There are even treadmills that track the amount of time you spend in the fat-burning zone at a specified level of exertion.

Treadmill Inclines Will Affect Accuracy

While the majority of treadmills have a standard incline feature, many users ignore it due to the difficulty level and time required. For those users, here’s what you need to know about inclines and their impact on treadmill accuracy.

Treadmill incline has two primary uses: to change the difficulty level of your workout and to track your vertical running motion. The first is as simple as it gets — incline increases the difficulty of your run, and flat does the opposite.

The second is a bit more involved. On a treadmill, if you run fast enough, you will be able to simulate the same vertical motion you would have with outdoor running. You will naturally run in a downhill-like position and the treadmill

Treadmill Speed Changes Were Due to the Force From the Foot to the Belt

Every fitness professional understands that the force applied to the belt by a foot will affect treadmill accuracy. When a runner runs, the force on the belt must be taken into account, but there is no mechanism for detecting the force, which is why this factor and its impact on accuracy is not always reflected in treadmill speed.

This effect on accuracy can be particularly significant when someone is performing high-intensity plyometric exercises that involve jumping or bounding.

Walking Speed and Subject Weight had Significant Effects on Treadmill Speed Changes

While fitness walkers should push to increase speed, it should be done gradually to avoid injuries that can accompany rapid speed changes. According to a study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, walking speed and subject weight had significant effects on treadmill speed changes. 

Tips to Lose Weight on a Treadmill Even with Inaccurate Readings

The treadmill is by far the most popular choice when it comes to exercising at home, but the key is to not let its low-impact nature fool you: you can still get a great workout!

Focus on Your Form

The problem with most treadmills is that the incline is not accurate at all. So many runners find themselves overcompensating, or else just not running at their proper level of difficulty.  The only way to avoid this problem is to focus on your form as you run. Keep your eyes ahead of you and keep your shoulders square.

Run For Time Instead of Distance

Most treadmills and ellipticals have built-in distance and pace monitors, but the displays on these devices are notoriously inaccurate. They are generally set up to give the illusion that you have actually gone a certain number of miles. When you take the time to calculate how many miles you really run, you may be shocked to find that you have run less than you thought you had.

Inaccurate readings are not the only problem with a treadmill and elliptical displays. running for time instead of distance is really a good way to run with an inaccurate treadmill.

Remember the Purpose of Your Workout

Many of us have used a treadmill at some point. Some of us have even gotten inaccurate treadmill readings. But do you know why? The purpose of your workout is to get yourself healthy. Your treadmill is just one of the tools you have to achieve this. When you use a treadmill, you want to get an accurate reading, but if you are getting inaccurate treadmill readings, remember the purpose of your workout: to get yourself healthy.

Last Words

One of the most common mistakes that people make with a treadmill is not learning how to use it properly. While this might seem like common sense, it is easy to overlook. Many of us don’t work out on treadmills very often, so we forget that we need to do a few things differently. This is why it is a good idea to remind yourself about setting up and using the treadmill properly.


Randy Lucas

Randy here - Fitness enthusiast and avid runner - besides running I also love playing with my two German Shepherds Peter and Bruce - oh and I love cooking. I am the Webmaster over at where I ramble about all things fitness in an effort to make the world a healthier place.