Sure, you could just get on that elliptical machine, plod along for 20 minutes and then get off, resting assured that you've burned some calories. But if you're more serious about your caloric burn, you'll have to get a little more scientific than all that. If you're busting your butt on that exercise machine and want to know details, you have a few ways of getting there.
Step onto the machine and press the "Start" button. Enter your weight and age when prompted. Some machines might not have this feature, but if yours does you should use it, since it will give you a more accurate reading of how many calories you're burning.
Start your workout, making sure to do at least five minutes at a warm-up pace before launching into the intense portion.
Place your hands on the metal sensors on the elliptical, if it has them, and then press "Calories." The machine will calculate the estimated number of calories you've burned thus far, based on the intensity level and your weight and age. If your machine doesn't have this feature, you'll have to employ another method to get your reading.
Slow down a little bit so you're able to accurately take your pulse. Look at a clock and count the number of beats you feel in 10 seconds. Then multiply that number by six to calculate how many times your heart is beating in one minute. If you're wearing a heart-rate monitor watch, that's fine too; just make a mental note of your current heart rate. After checking your heart rate, go back to your workout.
Check your heart rate at least one more time during the intense portion of your workout. If your heart rate changed significantly between the two times, add them and divide by two to establish an average.
Note the length of time you worked out. Perform a cool-down by moving slowly on the elliptical or walking slowly around the room.
Consult an online calories and heart-rate calculator, such as those offered on the ShapeSense or BraydenNMW websites, to estimate how many calories you burned. Enter your weight, age, length of time exercised and your average heart rate, press "Calculate," and you'll get an estimate of how many calories you burned.
If you want to do the math yourself, the calculation for women, according to a paper printed in the "Journal of Sports Sciences," is as follows:
Calories/min = (-20.4022 + 0.4472 x Heart Rate - 0.1263 x weight + 0.074 x age) / 4.184
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.