DM, I have a question. I currently do cardio 3-4X/week using either a treadmill and a cross-trainer (them ski-like things that work the arms and the legs) and I find that the calorie counter shows that I burn more calories using the cross-trainer rather than the treadmill. I hear a lot of people who say that the treadmill is the best calorie burner. My trainer says that the cross-trainer is better as it works the upper and the lower body. In your opinion, who is right? Or could my technique be wrong?
Good question. In fact, this is an issue I've always wanted to address. Honestly, if you ask me - DONT BELIEVE EVERYTHING THE CALORIE COUNTER TELLS YOU. It is not 100% accurate as there is no way that lifeless machine is able to predict your BMI (Body Mass Index), fitness level, body composition (percentage of fat/muscle), metabolism - all key factors that determine how many calories you burn for any given exercise/time period.
Even if the machine allows you to key in your own bodyweight, it will not be able to differentiate you from a similar weighted chimpanzee. In one of the gyms I've been to, they have a row of steppers - some are brand new and some are from a previous batch, and though I know I'm getting a killer cardio workout from the newer ones... (I gasp for breath and sweat way more) they STILL always give a much lower 'calorie consumed' reading when compared to the older ones, which are so much more 'confortable' to use and exercise with. Something's definitely not wrong here. The machines probably need calibration, etc... but I hope you get my point.
As for which machine burns more calories.. the crosstrainer or the treadmill - well, the answer is not that straightforward. For example, if you're running at top speed and top intensity on the treadmill.. you're definitely going to exceed the calories the crosstrainer can ever burn (how fast can you really go on a crosstrainer?). So, exercise INTENSITY plays a role.
Ok, now lets assume that if your intensity level is exactly the same on both machines (which is also difficult to establish since they're both different), but for the sake of this example, let's assume the intensity is the same. Then, I too, would certainly say that the crosstrainer would ultimately burn more calories.. why? For the same reason your trainer mentioned - simply because you're utilising both your upper body and lower body muscles.
Don't get me wrong - The treadmill is indeed an excellent calorie burner, suitable for people from all fitness levels. You can walk, brisk-walk, run, sprint - the possibilities are endless. But for it to be the 'best calorie burner' - you need to bump up your intensity. In fact, I too would like to say that it is INDEED the best calorie burner - BUT, walking and brisk walking on the 'best calorie burner' isnt gonna give you what you're thinking. Provided you're intense enough on the treadmill, only then will it be the best calorie burner. You reap what you sow, and there's no easy way out. Hope I've cleared your doubts.
Run for your life.