4 Questions About METS Will Change How You Exercise
By Kate Gardner
We've all heard the advice to aim for 10,000 steps per day but have you ever heard of METS? METS stands for metabolic equivalents and are a simple way to measure and assess physical activity.
What Are METS?
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, one MET is the energy your body uses to sit quietly. Hopefully, that's not all you're doing so METS have been calculated for an incredible number of daily activities at different intensities. METS are given a number anywhere from 1 (sitting quietly) to 6 and above (vigorous activity). The higher the number, the more vigorous the activity.
Sitting, standing to cook, and walking slowly are all METS less than 3, meaning that these are considered light activities. Bump that walk up a notch (about 4 mph) and you're in the moderate range, where METS measure between 3 to 6. Other examples of activities that qualify as moderate are heavy cleaning (like vacuuming) and mowing the lawn. Once the METS level goes over 6, you're into vigorous activity. Examples include shoveling snow, jogging (at 6 mph), or carrying heavy loads.
Why Should You Care About METS?
Have you ever spent the day cleaning your house (or gardening, or walking the dog) and felt like you finished a huge workout? In our modern culture, we often limit our definition of exercise to those things that can be done in a gym or in a pair of running shoes. But this isn't accurate. Anything that raises your heart rate and gets your body moving is exercise. When we track our physical activity using METS, we can see the impact that all kinds of regular, everyday movements have on our health (not just those typically thought of as exercise). That, in turn, may motivate us to spend more of our time being active.
How Many METS?
Guidelines from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion say that we should get 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week. That means performing any activity with a METS value greater than 3.3 for 150 minutes per week.
What Would That Look Like for an Entire Week?
Let's say that three days per week I spend 20 minutes on the treadmill jogging at a pretty good pace. I also vacuum the entire house twice a week, which takes another 30 minutes. Then there's walking the dog: Seven days per week she needs to go on a brisk 15-minute walk or she destroys all the couch cushions out of boredom (true story). That's 195 minutes of moderate intensity activity for the week! Less than half of it comes from typical exercising and most of it helps me meet other goals (like vacuuming up all that pet hair and keeping the dog happy).
When it comes to getting enough physical activity, METS can be a handy tool in helping you identify ways to keep active that fit well into your life. Take a look at METS and get moving!
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