Whilst on holiday in Spain last week (amazing!) I went for walks on the beach twice a day. I mostly walked barefoot in the loose beach sand and I certainly felt the effect! I was huffing and puffing after only a few meters and soon felt my leg muscles burn. Walking in loose sand is a much harder workout than my usual morning walks along the South Bank of London. This got me thinking…. my phone was counting my steps (as it would have done if I was walking on the sidewalk) but there is no way for it to know that I am working harder to take those sandy steps. I had also noticed that when I do my Sworkit workouts (which I absolutely LOVE) I worked really hard – think sweat on eyelids and shaking muscles – yet Sworkit would say I only burned 48 calories after a Dumbbell workout. That didn’t seem right to me. I needed to find a way to measure the intensity of my exercise.
What’s a girl to do if she wants to see if she is really exercising as hard as she thinks she is – hop onto Amazon and buy a Fitbit Inspire HR.
Calories burned difference
Once I had my Fitbit set up, I tested my hypothesis with a Isometric Strength Yoga workout (each pose is held for 40 seconds). It was a tough one! I was huffing and puffing, struggling to hold the poses and I had the frizzy hair and sopping wet underwear to prove it. And I was right – Sworkit said I burned 66 calories but my Fitbit was showing 167! And with Fitbit’s zones I could see that most of that workout fell into the Cardio Zone which meant my heart rate was between 70% and 84% of my max heart rate. I was clearly putting a lot of effort into my yoga. Namaste Fitbit.
I also wanted to see how many calories MyFitnessPal would say I had burned. I manually added 24 minutes of yoga to my exercise log and it registered 71 calories. Slightly more than Sworkit, but less than Fitbit.
Here are two more workouts with their respective calories burned as shown by Sworkit, MyFitnessPal and Fitbit.
|Sworkit calories||MyFitnessPal calories||Fitbit calories|
|Sworkit Yoga Isometric Strength (26 Minutes)||66||71||167|
|Sworkit Dumbbell Upper Body (16 minutes)||48||N/A||111|
|Sworkit Resistance Loop Lower Body (20 minutes)||60||58||95|
Quite a difference, right?
It is understandable though. An app has to assume your calorie usage based on how many calories the average person with the same sex, weight and age as you would burn to do that workout, for that amount of time. The calories burned is just an indication because without heart rate information, it’s impossible to know how intense that workout is for someone. Sworkit and MyFitnessPal show very similar calories burned, which tells me their calories burned are based on the same formula. This is perfectly fine and very useful, but if you want a more accurate calories burned count, you need a heart rate monitor. Enter Fitbit.
Keep them separate
Fitbit is compatible with MyFitnessPal, and Sworkit is compatible with MyFitnessPal (but Sworkit is not yet compatible with Fitbit). I had them linked up – using MyFitnessPal for logging food (not logging food in Fitbit, which is what Fitbit says you have to do when linking MyFitnessPal and Fitbit).
I have since unlinked the apps because MyFitnessPal was crediting my daily calorie allowance by however many calories Fitbit was showing. For example, if I do a Sworkit workout and burn 168 calories, MyFitnessPal would add those 168 calories to my 1200 calorie allowance. But if I consume the amount of calories which I just burned by doing a workout, I’ll just stay at my current weight. I don’t want that – I want to lose weight and stick to the 1200 calories limit.
You can change this feature, by you need MyFitnessPal Premium. With a Premium account you can choose whether or not they should increase your calorie intake goal when you exercise. Since I have the free version, the only way around them “giving back” my burned calories to me, is to not log any exercise in MyFitnessPal (either manually or by having it linked with Fitbit).
I therefor have three apps on my phone, each one doing its own thing independent from the other:
- MyFitnessPal: to keep track of my calorie intake
- Sworkit: for the 300 workouts I can choose from every morning
- Fitbit: to keep accurate track of the calories I burn from doing Sworkit workouts and daily steps. (And the great silent alarm that wakes me up in the morning and sleep stats.)
It might seem like a lot of places to check and apps to keep track of, but it’s not really. Fitbit does it’s thing for the most part automatically, I access Sworkit only once a day to do my workout, which leaves MyFitnessPal as the only place I have to pop into a few times a day.
I think the value I receive from knowing how many calories I burn (not how many the average person with my weight, sex and age would burn) and how much time I spend in the Fat Burn and Cardio zones, are tremendous.
I love my holy trinity of exercise apps!
(If you’d like to sign up to Sworkit, use this link and you’ll get 20% off!)