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I have a Polar heart rate monitor chest strap, and a compatible Android phone on which I can run a number of different apps for recording my heart rate. My primary interest is in how many calories I am burning during any one exercise. I play a variety of sports and run regularly.

What concerns me is that just about every app I've tried comes with an option to select a type of exercise, and then it will calculate different calorie burn rates.

Worse, these different calorie burn rates seem to be derived from a lot of assumptions about how much a person would burn doing these activities, not what I'm actually doing. As a test, I've tried connecting the heart rate monitor, choosing an activity, like "team sports" or "rock climbing", and then just standing there without moving. Regardless of the fact that I'm not actually doing anything, each app shows me burning calories fairly aggressively, as if I were engaged in that activity.

What I really want is an objective measure, something that doesn't try and make guesses based on the type of workout I'm doing, and lets me know what the most likely minimum calorie burn I am doing given my current exertion level, as measured by my heart rate. And, of course, taking in some known measurements about me, such as my height, weight, and age. Maybe GPS and pedometer as well, but whatever measurements it uses, it should be objective and not assumed.

I saw this related question, which leads me to believe that it should be possible to only use heart rate, and yet I can't find an app for Android that does that.

Is it actually not possible? Is there a reason why these apps are all making up numbers and not just going with the heart rate input?

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The answer with the formulae is excellent, however unless you are directly measuring via spirometry or other similar procedure, ANY formula is basically a guess. I would also hesitate to put too much reliance on heart rate based guesses since there is so much variability to heart rate. For example, say your normal exercising HR is 150, but today because you were tired you drank an energy drink and now your exercising HR is 180 due to the caffeine. Does that mean you're suddenly burning 20% more calories? (That answer is no, btw). –  JohnP May 8 '13 at 14:43
@JohnP: Any measure of calorie burn is an approximation, but that doesn't change that it's worth having at least some measurement. No one's asking for perfection, just questioning what assumptions are made in the calculations. –  Questioner May 9 '13 at 4:02
I think picking the type of exercise is mainly a variable that determines how calories scale with your heart rate. Certain exercises involve more muscles, with different ranges of motions and movement frequencies and thus work your muscles differently. So as soon as you tell the app you're doing a type of exercise, it'll have to assume that's what you're doing. I can't reliably determine whether you're actually doing it. So yes, they use your heart rate, but in a pretty naive way –  Ivo Flipse May 9 '13 at 10:08

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Yes it is, this is the Formula when you dont know the VO2max (Maximal oxygen consumption)


((-55.0969 + (0.6309 x HR) + (0.1988 x W) + (0.2017 x A))/4.184) x 60 x T


((-20.4022 + (0.4472 x HR) - (0.1263 x W) + (0.074 x A))/4.184) x 60 x T

HR = Heart rate (in beats/minute)

W = Weight (in kilograms)

A = Age (in years)

T = Exercise duration time (in hours)

With VO2max known you can calculate the calories burned like this:


((-95.7735 + (0.634 x HR) + (0.404 x VO2max) + (0.394 x W) + (0.271 x A))/4.184) x 60 x T


((-59.3954 + (0.45 x HR) + (0.380 x VO2max) + (0.103 x W) + (0.274 x A))/4.184) x 60 x T*

Source: http://www.shapesense.com/fitness-exercise/calculators/heart-rate-based-calorie-burn-calculator.aspx

You have a online Calculater Tool on this Website if you dont want to calculate everything on your own.

On the bottom of the Website you also have some calculations about the Equation for determination of the maximal Heartrate based on age and the equation for Exercise Intensity Conversion from %MHR to %VO2max. But I don't know what to do with these 2 Formula so i didn't post them.

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IMO this tends to be more accurate than those 'Calories Burned' meters on the treadmills. –  BigHomie May 8 '13 at 14:43
These formulas are copied and pasted all over the place. Anyone who's tried the female calculation will know that it's utter nonsense. –  Daniel Wood Dec 11 '14 at 11:12

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