learn more about METs, or Metabolic Equivalents

What Are METs?

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Billy Hughes
August 23, 2021
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If you want to improve your fitness, you’ll need to learn more about METs, or Metabolic Equivalents.

What, exactly, are METs? These are a measure of exercise intensity that’s based on oxygen consumption.

How do they work?

Let’s look at an example of METs. A physical activity that is 2 METs means that you’ll work twice your resting metabolic rate and burn twice as many calories as you would when sitting down.

Based on that example, it’s already clear to see that METs can be a useful way to help you boost your fitness and lose weight by burning more calories. With that in mind, let’s explore METs in more detail and how to use them. 

Wait, What Is Metabolic Rate? 

what is a metabolic rate

To understand how METs work, we first have to understand the meaning of the term “metabolic rate.”

This is the rate of energy expended per unit of time. So, one MET is the amount of energy you’ll use when you’re at rest. This can be defined as your basal or resting metabolic rate.

An activity of 2 METs means you’re using twice the energy you would when sitting still, as mentioned earlier. 

How Do Cells In The Body Produce Energy? 

With all this talk about energy expenditure, you might be wondering  how energy is produced and used in the body.

The body’s muscle cells use oxygen to produce energy that’s required to move them. Just one MET is the equivalent of 3.5 milliliters of oxygen consumed per kilogram of your body weight per minute.

So, if you weigh 60 kilograms, you will consume approximately 210 milliliters of oxygen per minute when you’re sitting at rest. To get this figure for yourself, you will have to multiply your weight by 3.5 milliliters. 

Why Should You Care About METs? 

how are met and calories linked

If you have fitness and weight-loss goals, you can benefit from using METs to help you plan your exercise routines much better.

METs can also help you figure out how much you’re getting from various exercises so that you can locate the best ones to help you achieve your goals.

You might be wondering how you’ll be able to calculate the METs in various activities – don’t worry, you just need to make use of an MET chart!

What’s A Good MET Chart?

You can find a useful MET chart online that shows you a variety of exercises and how many METs they have. On this chart, you can click on an activity, such as cycling, to see what the METs are for various types of cycling activities. For example, uphill biking has 14 METs.

The chart also shows you how moderate-intensity exercise fares when compared to high-intensity exercise so you can see what’s required for you to take your fitness routine up a notch and use more energy to burn a greater number of calories. For example, general jogging has a MET value of 7.0 but running at 5mph will increase your METs to 8.3. 

It’s useful to keep this chart handy so that you can see how many calories you’ll be able to burn during various types of exercise. 

How Are Calories And METs Linked? 

Basically, the more oxygen your body’s muscles use, the more calories you’ll burn. If you’re on a weight-loss journey, you probably already know that you need to burn 3,500 calories in order to burn one pound of weight.

METs can come in handy to help you achieve this goal because by knowing the METs of a certain physical activity you can work out the number of calories you’re actually burning when taking part in them.

How do you calculate this?

You need to know this formula: METs x 3.5 [because 1 MET is equivalent to this amount of oxygen consumed per kilo of your body weight per minute] x your body weight in kilograms / 200 = calories that you burn per minute.

So, let’s look at an example of how to do this. If you weigh 50 kg and you run 6mph, you will have an MET value of 9.8. You’ll then have to multiply 9.8 x 3.5 x 50, then divide that number by 200 to get the calories you’re burning per minute, which will be 8.5.

The more METs of a particular exercise, the more energy your body’s muscles will need to use to perform that activity. 

What Are METs Of Common Home Activities? 

What Are METs Of Common Home Activities?

It’s not just exercise that causes you to burn calories. You can burn calories when doing various activities.

It’s interesting to see what the MET values are for doing some popular home activities. Add these to your regular workout to give it a boost!

  • Sweeping your carpet at home has a MET value of 3.3, which means your body will be using 3.3 times the energy you use when sitting down. 
  • Doing some gardening or playing with your dog will give you 4.0 METs. 
  • Washing and waxing your car has 4.5 METs. 
  • Vigorous playing with kids has 5.0 METs. 
  • Moving furniture has 6.0 METs. 

From the above it’s clear to see that you use energy by doing a variety of activities at home, and by knowing their MET values you can include them into a fitness routine to enhance it.

Does It Work To Count Calories? 

You might like the idea of counting how many calories you eat and burn through exercise afterwards, but is calorie counting a good thing?

There are some benefits associated with counting how many calories you eat and burn. These include the following:

  • Calorie counting can boost your weight loss. A review found that when weight-loss programs included calorie counting, people lost about seven pounds more than those who didn’t count calories. 
  • By monitoring your calories you can see where you’re guilty of unhealthy eating habits that could be preventing you from losing weight. Remember, your diet is 90 percent responsible for your weight loss.
  • Similarly, you can be made aware of what exercise routines would work better to help you burn more calories during workout sessions. Knowing METs will help you in this regard. For example, if you currently take part in aerobics dancing, which has an MET value of 7.3, you could increase your METs to 10.0 by doing aerobic dance while wearing 10lb weights. Similarly, if you usually work out with a stationary bike, which has 7.0 METs, you might want to boost your calorie burn by choosing to do vigorous calisthenics, such as pull-ups and push-ups, which have 8.0 METs. This can also help you to move through a fitness plateau.

Are there negatives linked to counting calories?

app for counting calories in foods

When it comes to counting calories in foods, this can become a negative or stressful thing. An example is if you have a history of eating disorders.

Similarly, if you assume that counting calories is the only way to lose weight and burn calories, this could end up being risky to your health.

It’s important to remember that it’s not just where calories come from that’s important but how the body uses them, such as whether the calories are used for energy or fat. Sugar calories, for example, will lead to fat storage and make you feel hungrier.

Note that it’s never a good idea to overindulge and then try to work off the calories in the gym or during spin classes as this could cause you to exercise too much, which puts strain on your body and can lead to fatigue and burnout. It can also cause you to want to eat more, which makes you end up in an unhealthy cycle. 

Related Questions 

What influences energy expenditure?

Different people will have different energy expenditure, as this is affected by fitness level and age. 

How much exercise should you get per week?

You should get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week, which is 500 MET minutes per week. 

Conclusion

If you want to burn more calories during exercise, it’s important to know what METs are as they can help you to see how your fitness goals are progressing and if they’re still even on track.

By choosing activities and exercises according to their MET values, you’ll be able to achieve those goals while finding new and exciting ways to keep your workouts interesting. 

Sources: 

Billy Hughes

Billy Hughes is a fitness trainer based out of New York. She has registered success in training clients at multiple fitness centers and thus aims to establish her module relevant to the post-pandemic era. Her space, Cerevellum.com, is an attempt towards encouraging and educating more people on the scope of indoor fitness. She believes the power of fitness can transform attitude, personality, and way of living. She also finds it rewarding to help people achieve their goals and make their lives better.