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Home arrow Fitness arrow Running arrow Are Treadmills Accurate, or Should You Better Trust Your Watch?

Are Treadmills Accurate, or Should You Better Trust Your Watch?

Written by Isabel Mayfield
Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: May 12, 2023
5 min read 904 Views 0 Comments
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Treadmills have become a popular fitness machine, but are they accurate in tracking your workout? Explore the reliability of treadmills and whether you should trust their readings over your own fitness watch.

are treadmills accurate

Stepping on a treadmill and completing your workout is easy, but it may not always provide accurate readings. 

Whether you’re trying to lose weight or get fit, it’s important to track your calories, pace, distance, and heart rate. You can use these readings to determine if you are doing the right kind of exercise to reach your goals. Treadmills are also designed to display distance and pace, which can help you make progress.

Discover how accurate treadmills are for your workouts and other ways you can track your exercise to help you reach your health goals.

Are Treadmills Accurate?

Yes, treadmills are accurate when it comes to distance and speed. The calibration is based on the rotation of the belt, which means there are sensors that measure how far you run in a given time.

When running on a treadmill, you might look at the numbers on the screen. These numbers could represent your speed, distance, and calories expended. Other sophisticated treadmills could show more statistics, but you should only focus on heart rate and distance when getting fit.

Most of the time, quality treadmills give accurate readings. It’s all about the motors and sensors inside the machine and how they count the revolutions of a belt.

Of course, treadmills won’t give an accurate estimate if you’re doing interval training. For example, you might sprint for a minute and then stop for a 30-second break. During this pause, the treadmill will continue to move the belt, so it won’t show the correct distance.

How Treadmills Work

Before doing treadmill workouts, you should know how this machine works. Treadmills have moving belts that are controlled by electric motors. Inside the running device, there are sensors that estimate your speed and distance depending on how fast the belt spins while you’re running.

Here are a few features of the treadmill: 

#1 Distance calculator 

The distance calculator on a treadmill can track your distance better than using a smartwatch on this machine. It documents the number of times the belt completes a full turn, which provides your total kilometers or miles in a single run. 

Some people prefer this measurement over smartwatches and outside running because the treadmill doesn’t rely on GPS or the internet. 

#2 Speed measurement 

Treadmills use distance ÷ time measured to document the speed. On most modern running machines, you can track your speeds measured in miles per hour (mph). Increasing the number means you have to run faster to keep up with the belt. 

#3 Calorie counter 

One downside to standard treadmills is that the machine cannot track your heart rate and pulse. There are many branded treadmills that use an average metabolic equation from the Compendium of Physical Activities to measure calories burned during a walk or run. You should use a smartwatch to count calories.

However, many modern treadmills have sensors you have to touch or features that encourage you to wear a heart rate belt. You should find a more modernized machine if you want to track calories burned.

How Accurate Is Treadmill Distance?

Because of the way they work, treadmills are accurate at measuring distance. They read only the belt, not the user’s weight or exercise intensity. You can monitor your distance readings when setting goals. 

Modern treadmills offer instrumental data and measurements to guide your progress. It doesn’t matter how fast the belt is going because the machine can still track a full loop of the belt.

People who want to increase their distance gradually and set personal challenges can use treadmills. These machines may prevent running injuries if you plan on running for more than 60 minutes.

How to know if your treadmill distance is accurate

There is an easy way to measure the accuracy of your treadmill. First, take a tape measure and measure the full length of the belt from end to end. Multiply this measurement by two to determine the length of the belt. Next, place a small piece of white tape on the end of the belt. 

Walk at a steady speed on the treadmill and count the 100 rotations when the white tape becomes visible each time. You can measure the accuracy by doing 100 x belt length for distance. 

Is Treadmill Speed Accurate? 

Those who want to power walk or run may want to track their speed. This is because fast-paced workouts burn more calories and enhance your training routine. 

In terms of treadmill speed, these machines are designed to measure your pace. Similar to distance, it uses a basic formula of distance (belt length x number of revolutions) ÷ running time. For example, if your belt length is 3 meters and it took 30 seconds to complete 20 revolutions, then the treadmill would calculate (3 x 20) ÷ 30 = 2 meters per second or 4mph. 

Due to this simple equation and basic manufacturing technique, treadmills can accurately detect your running speed

Are Treadmill Calories Accurate? 

Standard treadmill calories are not accurate because there is no way for the machine to monitor your pulse and heart rate. All you see on the screen is an average calorie burn based on published evidence. 

If you want to track your calories, it’s better to find a modern treadmill that uses heart rate belts or sensors to monitor your heart rate. 

Apps and smartwatches tend to have the most accurate calorie counters. This is because a watch uses the pulse in your wrist to track your heart rate. More energy expenditure during a run means you’re burning extra calories.

Factors that affect your calories burned

There are many factors that determine how many calories you burn during exercise. For example, you might burn 200 calories during a 30-minute run, while someone else might burn only 150 calories. That’s why it’s better to use a smartwatch to get an accurate measurement of calories burned. 

Factors that contribute to calories burned include:

  • The intensity of your exercise 
  • Current weight 
  • Body fat percentage 
  • Muscle mass 
  • Gender and age
  • Fitness level 
  • Exercise duration 

The intensity of your workout tends to burn more calories because you’re consistently increasing your heart rate. To progress, you need to push yourself and try new, challenging speeds.

Other Ways to Track Your Workout 

You can track your workouts with a sports watch. These devices use GPS to track your distance and pace over time. Some smartwatches can also track calories burned by monitoring your heart rate and pulse throughout your run.

Running apps are better for people who want to track their progress and easily compare results with friends. These apps can also inspire you to join running communities and set a new personal best. 

For example, you could document your current speed and create goals to achieve your best time. Apps provide more convenience when you want to review your short- and long-term progress. 


Is the treadmill or watch distance more accurate?

Treadmills are more accurate at measuring your running or walking distance. This is because they calculate the distance by measuring the complete revolutions of a treadmill belt.

Is it normal to run slower on a treadmill?

Yes, it’s normal to feel like you’re running slower than usual on the treadmill. The treadmill’s speed is constant, which means you are using the same muscles throughout your run. To improve, increase the speed and incline to see how long you can run at a sustainable pace.

How many calories can you burn on a treadmill in 30 minutes?

The number of calories you burn depends on your weight, incline, and speed. For example, someone who weighs 130 pounds may burn 400–500 calories while running at a pace of 5mph on the treadmill for one hour.

A Word From a Running Coach

Getting on the treadmill is one of the best ways to get in shape with running. You can challenge yourself to test new distances and speeds, especially when it comes to losing weight or improving your fitness level.

Sometimes, you might wonder whether treadmills offer precise readings. They are technical and smart machines that use certain mechanics to track your distance and speed. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about how accurate the numbers are on the screen.

For those who want to improve their running form outside, it’s better to rely on the measurements of a smartwatch. These devices use GPS and a heart rate monitor to track your progress.


Regular treadmill runs can help you control your distance and speed without worrying about the weather. Taking measurements will encourage you to progress and set new personal best goals. If you can’t find an advanced treadmill with heart rate monitoring, it may be better to use a smartwatch to monitor your heart rate.

Written by Isabel Mayfield
Isabel Mayfield is a certified yoga instructor with over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. She is passionate about self-improvement and loves to help people improve their sense of self-worth through education and support in meeting their fitness goals.
The article was fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
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Written by Isabel Mayfield
Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: May 12, 2023
5 min read 904 Views 0 Comments

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