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Understanding METs

The MET system allows your patient to easily design a custom fitness program based on their unique metabolism. MET stands for “metabolic equivalent.” Many people are familiar with METs because they often appear on the display monitors of gym equipment as an indicator of exercise intensity. Many fitness experts recommend the MET system as a way to set goals and track progress.

Activity Intensity and METs.

METs are a measure of the rate at which the body expends energy. One MET is the rate at which your body expends energy while sitting at rest. MET values are usually expressed as a multiple of 1 MET, so a value of 4.5 METs would indicate that an activity uses 4.5 times as many calories as resting. One advantage of the MET system is that it is designed to be independent of the proportions of the individual.

Accurate MET values are available for a wide variety of physical activities, so they are an excellent way to build a fitness program and track your progress. The Compendium of Physical Activities is a comprehensive catalog of MET intensities first published in 1993 and updated in 2000 and 2011. The Compendium is still an ongoing project and the very latest information on MET values can be found at the website: https://sites.google.com/site/compendiumofphysicalactivities/.

Activity Duration and MET Hours

A good way to set activity goals is to track MET-hours per week. To calculate MET hours, multiply the MET value of the activity by the number of hours it is performed. MET-hours for various activities can be added up through the week and compared to a goal that is based on current level of fitness and genotype.

MET value x Duration (in hours) = MET-hours

For example:

7.0 METs x 2.5 Hours = 17.5 MET-hours

This table gives examples of light-, moderate-, and vigorous-intensity activity for healthy adults.

Light

<3.0 METs

Moderate

3.0–6.0 METs

Vigorous

>6.0 METS

  • Walking—slowly
  • Sitting—using computer
  • Standing—light work (cooking, washing dishes)
  • Fishing—sitting
  • Playing most instruments
  • Walking—very brisk (4 mph)
  • Cleaning—heavy (washing windows, vacuuming, mopping)
  • Mowing lawn (power mower)
  • Bicycling—light effort (10–12 mph)
  • Badminton—recreational
  • Tennis—doubles
  • Walking/hiking
  • Jogging at 6 mph
  • Shoveling
  • Carrying heavy loads
  • Bicycling fast (14–16 mph)
  • Basketball game
  • Soccer game
  • Tennis—singles