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How Accurate are Heart rate monitors for calories

Jan 31 2008 10:50
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I have a polar heart rate monitor i use when training and have my correct height and weight in it, how accurate are these at calculating calories burned?  I'm guessing pretty accurate as it is based on your heart rate as opposed to just guessing!


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glad you asked that question as i was wondering the same thing because according to my heart rate monitor, i am burning double what cc says. im not sure why or if it is even correct.  if it's correct i will need to adjust my daily activity level for sure but also it makes a huge difference because of how many calories i am eating and i dont want too big of a deficit.  anybody out there have ideas on the acuracy of the heart rate monitor?

I'm more trusting of my Polar HRM than I am of the CC numbers or the numbers on the cardio machines.  Your HRM, if you put in the right figures, is giving you much more personalized information.

That being said, I have the opposite "issue" of lucidiva--my Polar usually gives me a number that's about 100 calories LOWER than, for instance, the elliptical for every 30 minutes I'm on it.  But that explains a LOT for me--ever since I started going by my Polar's estimate of what I've burned rather than CC's, and adjusted my eating accordingly, I've started making more progress in my weight & fat loss.


A heart rate monitor is a good tool for helping you control your workout intesity.  It allows you to easily determine whether you are working hard enough on your hard days or too hard on your recovery days.  Heart rate monitors use an algorithem to estimate calories burned based on heart rate intensity.  In my opinion they are no more or less accurate that other tools for estimating calories burned.
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I just did a Google search and it is hard to find actual studies on this. I found one that compared heart rate monitors to indirect calorimetry; it said that the heart rate monitor (Polar S410, with measured VO2max) overestimated energy expenditure by 12% in women on a treadmill test.

Study 1 shows errors in heart rate measurements
Study 2 investigates energy expenditure with Polar S410
I have two HRM's - one is a Garmin and the other is part of a Polar bike computer.  I find that my Polar is almost right on since I put in the own zones, but using just age and weight... it wasn't so hot.  Does your model have a fitness test or something called OwnZone?  I'm not sure if they all do, but you might want to try that.

My Garmin, on the other hand, is just awful.  I'll go on a 30 minute 3.4 mile run and it will tell me I burned 900 calories.  I wish!

Ditto for my Polar CS300.  My generally tracks dead on with the treadmill until I hit about the 30 minute mark.  After that my polar shows more calories than the treadmill.  For me on a 60 min cardio workout, my polar generally will show approx 1100 calories and the treadmill will show 700-800.  I usually split the diff and record 900.

 My wife has the Polar F6 and she is the opposite - it will record at less calories than the treadmill shows.

 Great questions !

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