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Are Treadmill Readings Accurate? Calories, Heart Rate, Distance etc.?

Published by Kieran
Last Updated on April 30, 2022

Are a Treadmill's Readings Correct?

If you are using your treadmills monitor and statistics to track how fit you are getting, how many calories you are burning or the distance you are running each session, then we have some bad news for you, these figures are not always accurate.

This isn't the same for all the figures produced on your treadmill, as the statistics for distance are considered to be fairly accurate, due to it being a simple calculation, however those biscuits you are burning off calories wise, you might have to double-check.

To help understand what's accurate and what's not on your treadmill, along with how these figures are produced and alternatives, we have put together a guide below which will answer all your important questions.

Are Treadmill Heart Rate Counters Accurate?

Let's start with the heart rate monitor on your treadmill, first of all, you might be wondering how this monitor even works.

Well, on most of the popular treadmills, the heart rate monitor in this machine is built into the handlebars, meaning you will have to place your hand over this metal sensor when working out to obtain a pulse reading.

These metal sensors work by using small electrical signals to figure out how fast your heart is beating and give you a statistic.

The Problem

The heart rate monitors built in the sides of treadmills are not accurate nor inaccurate. The issues of these monitors first off are the placement, many people get sweaty hands during an exercise session on a treadmill, and too much sweat can cause some inaccurate readings on the sensor as your hands will be sliding around. Any trapped dirt can also impact the readings calculated.

An inaccurate reading can also be produced due to the vigorous motion of you running, meaning the handlebars of the treadmill and your hands will shake giving false readings, the sensor however should work fine when you are walking.


If understanding your heart rate is important for your training on the treadmill or for your health then you might want to consider some more accurate alternatives.

  • Take it manually - Put two fingers on the side of your neck and count how many times you can feel your pulse within a ten second period, then, if you times this number by six you will have your heart rate per minute.
  • Use a chest strap - Chest strap heart rate monitors are used more by professionals and have two wires which connect to your chest and take your heart rate, these can take some time to get used to, however.
  • Try a wrist device - From apple watches to fit bits, these modern devices fit right around your wrist and can monitor your heart rate pretty well in comparison to the metal detector built on your treadmill.

Are Treadmill Calorie Counters Accurate?

Now we understand that the heart rate monitor on a treadmill is a bit of a hit or miss, let's move on to the calories statistics which are produced from your treadmill.

Treadmill calorie counters will produce an overall burn depending on the weight and height you entered in on the machine, the incline you are working out at, along with the speed and stride.

The Problem

These calorie counters do not take into account your fitness level and muscle mass. For example, if you are someone with a very high fitness level then you will burn fewer calories than someone who is very unfit. Also, the more muscle you have, then the more calories you will burn.

Some people also support themselves with the handlebars of the machine while they workout which can provide inaccurate calorie burn as the exercise will be easier.

Calorie counters on treadmills don't take into account any of these factors, so you should take the figure produced with a grain of salt or track your progress with the alternatives below. Some of the higher quality models may require you to input your body fat percentage which can help if you know it.


  • Use an online calculator - Input your personal measurements plus your treadmill session online and compare the calories burned to see if they are similar, this will give you an idea of how much you did burn and help tell if your treadmills counter is accurate or not.
  • Buy a high-quality machine - Higher quality machines will give more accurate figures, cheaper machines may not even give you an option to input your weight, meaning the calories burned are at average.
  • Use a wrist device - As we mentioned with the heart rate counter, investing in a wristwatch-like a Fitbit can help determine your calorific burn more accurately as it knows your stats.

Are Treadmill Distances Accurate?

The distance statistic produced on your treadmill is considered much more accurate than your heart rate or the calories burned, as the calculation is pretty simple. Your treadmill calculates the distance you have walked or ran by counting the revolutions of the belt, this is important if you want to track your progress or your pace from a workout.

Treadmills use the length of the belt and how many times it has been covered to give you your distance, this distance will be in miles or KM depending on the country you brought your treadmill from or the settings on your treadmill.

The Problem

Overall, people regard the way a treadmill calculates the distance to be pretty accurate, the only things you should consider is if your belt is worn down or the fact that in comparison to a real terrain, this distance calculated on a treadmill is false as it doesn't factor in uneven terrains and other outdoor factors.


  • Use a calculator online.
  • Wear a wrist device.
  • Compare findings to outdoor running at the same pace.

Are Treadmills Accurate For Speed?

Lastly, you may be wondering if the speed that your treadmill tells you your running at is accurate, and most tend to be fairly correct.

Most low-end treadmills will have a speed range of 3.0 mph - 10.0 mph, but to test the speed of your treadmill, you can follow some steps below which will help you know whether your machine is correct or not.

Steps For Testing The Speed Accuracy Of Your Treadmill

Any error can occur with your treadmill which might be giving you a speed statistic that is either too slow or too fast, luckily, you can test the speed of your model with the steps below.

  • Step One - First of all, you will need to calculate the length of your treadmills belt from the manual of your model. If you can't find it then you should take a piece of string and wind it around your treadmills belt till it does a full loop, then measure the string.
  • Step Two - Mark the belt with some chalk and set your treadmill to a certain speed, count how many times you see the chalk from your belt within a time frame of 60 seconds.
  • Step Three - Times the number of times you saw the chalk mark by the length of your belt in inches, then multiply this figure by 60 to see how many inches your treadmill can cover within an hour.
  • Step Four - Take the inches your treadmill can cover in an hour and divide that number by 12 then divide it by 5,280, this will give you the distance in miles that you can cover with your treadmill within an hour. This way you will be able to know whether your treadmills Mph matches up or not to the miles produced by the chalk you counted.

What Is The Average Heart Rate While Running?

So as you can track your progress and make sure you are exercising in the intensity zone you want, you should know your target heart rate while running.

On average, most people have a running heart rate of 80-170 bpm, your target heart rate will be a percentage of your maximum heart rate which is typically your age took away from 220, so if your 21, your max heart rate will be 199 bpm when doing exercise.

Now, depending on whether you want to workout with a moderate or high intensity you will take a percentage of your maximum heart rate to calculate your target, for example, if you want to work out at a high intensity you will be looking to exercise at 70-85% of your max heart rate, for moderate this may just be 50%.

To figure out how hard you are working when exercising, you can use the monitor on your treadmill or the alternatives we mentioned above, you can also see by checking your physical exertion to see if you are tired or not.

Is Running On a Treadmill Harder Than Running Outside?

After covering whether or not treadmills readings are accurate, you might be questioning whether a treadmill is really like running outside at all, so to help you out we have compared the two activities below and their differences.

We have listed out the common reasons as to why your running on a treadmill might feel harder than outside below.

  • You are bored - Running on a treadmill can feel harder and longer without entertainment, meaning you could switch between intervals to vary the intensity and make it feel like running outside more.
  • The pace is the same - Even when you get tired, the pace of your treadmill will stay the same, unlike outside which varies when you stop for cars etc.
  • You have a different stride length - People who run outside tend to have a shorter stride length due to the uneven ground, when you run at this short stride on a treadmill you will be using more energy.
  • Different muscles are in use - You tend to use your quad muscles more than your hamstrings on a treadmill which can result in a different gait outside.
  • The accuracy of the machine is wrong - As we mentioned above, your speed and pace might not be accurate on a treadmill, meaning it can feel harder than it is.

Frequently Asked Questions About If Treadmill Readings Are Accurate

What impacts how many calories someone can burn on a treadmill?

The following factors such as your weight, height, fitness level and muscle mass will impact how many calories different individuals can burn on a treadmill.

Are smartwatches accurate? 

Smartwatches are considered very accurate ways of tracking your progress with fitness and will relay the info to your phone.

Why is my Fitbit distance different to what my treadmill shows?

A Fitbit uses your arm swing and stride length to determine how much distance you are covering, a treadmill however will be more accurate in this case as its covering the distance covered by the belt.

Final Words

To conclude, the distance and speed of your treadmill tend to be the most accurate readings shown on your treadmill, however, you might want to invest in a smartwatch to track your heart rate and calories, as different treadmills can be hit or miss with these figures.

Remember, you can also check if your speed is correct on your treadmill with the calculation took by string, as well as your heart rate with a chest monitor.

About the author
Published by Kieran
A star athlete during his school days, Kieran quickly excelled at sports and in particular; football. Kieran's true passion lies in home exercise equipment, and so was was built as a source for all of Kieran's thoughts to be put down on a medium. Here he guides you through various nuances of working out at home, tips, guides, reviews and more.The only other thing Kieran enjoys more than working out, is writing about it.
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