Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Corporate Fitness: What Are METS?

This blog was written by Jenna Pearson. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

METS, nifs, exercise intensity, corporate fitness, senior fitnessEver wonder what “METS” stands for on the treadmill, bike, or elliptical? Simply stated, a MET (also known as the metabolic equivalent) is a unit of measure that quantifies the intensity, or energy cost, of an exercise or activity.

It’s scientific in that it approximates the amount of energy you expend during physical activity based on the amount of oxygen a body at rest consumes. It’s practical because it describes the intensity and energy expenditure of certain activities relatively, or in a way that is comparable among persons of different sizes. Additionally, it is especially useful for individuals interested in cross-training but who also want to make sure they are getting similar-intensity workouts using a variety of exercise modalities.

Following is a list of activities and their respective MET values. At rest, the body uses approximately 3.5 ml of oxygen per kilogram of bodyweight. This equates to 1 MET. If you are participating in an activity that is 4.5 MET, it means you are working 4.5 times harder during that activity than when you are at rest. The higher the MET, the greater the intensity.

  • Rest = 1 MET
  • Bowling = 3.5 MET
  • Cycling (9.7 mph, flat) = 5.0 MET
  • Walking (3.5 mph, flat) = 5.5 MET
  • Tennis = 6.0 MET
  • Shoveling (think snow) = 7.0 MET
  • Jogging (5 mph, flat) = 7.5 MET
  • Running (7.5 mph, flat) = 9.0 MET
  • Basketball = 9.0 MET
  • Running (8.5 mph, flat) = 12.0 MET
  • Running (10 mph, flat) = 15.0 MET
  • Swimming (.8m/s, crawl) = 15.0 MET

Source: Wilmore, Jack H., and David L. Costill. "Prescription of Exercise for Health and Fitness." Physiology of Sport and Exercise. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2004.

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