Few things are better than seeing triple digits on your machine at the gym, indicating that you’ve burned some serious calories. But exercise machines and fitness trackers aren’t perfect and can even give numbers notably further from reality. Curious if climbing a flight of stairs or crushing a StairMaster workout burns as many calories as it feels like it does, we sought out the advice of Chris Kelly, an NASM-certified personal trainer.
Here’s the harsh truth: climbing one step results in burning 0.11 calories, according to a study in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal. This means you would need to go 10 steps in order to burn a single calorie — a distance most fitness trackers consider roughly equal to a flight of stairs, Chris told POPSUGAR. If one calorie seems low to you, it’s because that’s a very basic number.
He went on to explain that this number varies from person to person based on their weight, the intensity of the exercise, and other factors. Think about it. If you’re running up the stairs with ankle weights on, you’re going to burn more calories than someone walking without any resistance. If one of you weighed 100 pounds more than the other, that’s also going to impact the results.
Both the StairMaster and regular stairs can be an effective workout, but the machine has its advantages. “I have used the StairMaster in the past with clients because I’m able to track their intensity and monitor them easier than on regular stairs,” Chris said. Even if the machine doesn’t accurately read calories burned, you can use it to track your speed and the steepness of your climb, which can help you gauge your progress. Apply the same concepts to your workouts outside of the gym, and remember that resistance can work wonders.