Internet calculators are a self-help dream. But, they still can't help you to succeed without motivation. Here's the scoop on what they can and can't do for you.
Although I have yet to hear about a Web-based application that will wax floors or help me push through the last mile of a tough 10K, I did wonder how it could help a fitness junkie.
|Self-help advice on the web: the good and the bad on fitness tools
|They can tell you if your weight should be a concern. They can't tell you if that excess weight is muscle or flab.
|They can tell you how to calculate target heart rates for aerobic exercise, but they can't tell you what's the best rate given your fitness level.
|They can demonstrate exercises to benefit specific body parts.
|They can produce a basic workout for running, weight-training or other activities.
|They can give you the calorie count on different foods.
|They can tell you how many calories you'll burn doing an activity.
It can tell you how fat you are, or the ratio of fat to muscle. It can tell you how many calories you burn in a given exercise. It can get you started on a fitness program or help you train for a marathon.
It can give you all sorts of information, in all sorts of ways, but the one thing it can't give you is motivation.
With a BMR calculator, for instance, you can determine the number of calories you need to maintain body weight and simple, near-inert biological function.
BMR stands for basal metabolic rate, and the rate will vary, depending. If you live in cooler climates, if you are a man, if you are younger, if you are physically larger, you will have higher BMRs.
I enter my current weight, age and height, then click and, voila, learn that I need 1,904 calories per day to keep breathing.
Then it lets me enter time for different activities above and beyond a couch potato state. I enter 480 minutes for sitting, reading and writing, which would be my work. Then I enter an hour of walking around the house or in town, a half-hour of running and an hour of weight training.
This is a bit of a cheat, because I seldom run and lift on the same day. But if I did, I would need 3,692 calories.
I also learned that using a computer for eight hours a day burns a stunning total of 136 extra calories.
That's all well and good, but how many Big Macs could I eat before I needed to burn off more than my allotted 3,446 calories?
The Calorie Control Council's Enhanced Calorie Counter let me compile a record of my daily intake, item by item. So if I have a piece of coffee cake for breakfast, and two leftover pieces of pizza for lunch, I will have consumed 777 calories only 2,700 more to go.
Other online apps help define your ideal weight. Calculators tell me I should weigh between 184 and 202 pounds. Some come with a disclaimer that the calculator doesn't allow for body fat or lean muscle tissue, so it is only an estimate.
I'll take that. At least I know I'm not waaaaay out of range.
But how much of that is muscle, and how much fat? I'm not delusional. I know I'm carrying a small touring-bike tire. So I go over to self.com
, and use its body fat percentage calculator. And it tells me this:
"Your total weight is about 31.7 percent fat, a dangerously high level of fat to be carrying on your frame."
I think I'm going back to the mirror. At least it knows when to shut up.