By Troy Moore
Staying in shape is not limited to working out at the gym. If you find yourself wanting to stay active but want to enjoy the outdoors this summer, you might consider thinking of your daily activities in terms of METs, or metabolic equivalents of tasks.
METs simply serve as values that are used to estimate how much energy, or how many calories, will be used during activity and are based on the body’s energy needs at rest when sitting. The MET value for sitting is usually computed as 1.3, whereas more intense activities like running or boxing can easily go over 10.
Here are MET values for other common activities:
Standing in place
Walking the dog
House cleaning (sweeping floors or vacuuming)
Biking, for leisure
Swimming, for leisure
Choosing activities that allow you to remain active for the longest period of time throughout the day is usually more beneficial for most. Thus, moderate activity like washing or walking the dog can be more beneficial than running if it is not realistic for you to run every day or for long intervals.
The seemingly minor additional value of standing, instead of sitting (MET of 1.8 instead of 1.3) can also add up and provide an additional 20 to 30 percent calories burned over time.
For an exact computation of calories burned using METs:
[(MET value) x (3.5) x (weight in kg)] / 200 = calories burned per minute. For kilograms, just divide weight in pounds by 2.2.
Although you can use the formula above and estimate calories burned for each daily activity, most people can benefit from striving for one to two active periods per day without worrying about specific numbers.
However, for those who are more concerned about the metrics, the 2011 Compendium of Physical Activities is a project currently sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and available on Google Sites. It features MET values for more than 500 different activities.
Personally, I enjoy waking up a little earlier than my day requires to go for a morning walk that usually takes me 30 to 45 minutes to complete. This way, if I am unable to get a full workout in at the gym or the track, I know that I can at least count on getting 150 minutes of moderate activity in every week, without even counting the weekend.
Although the American College of Sports Medicine recommends getting 150 minutes every week, more health benefits are associated with doubling that figure. Fortunately, I am usually able to accomplish this by pairing my morning walks with gym time later in the day.
If you’re looking for activities to add or complement your routine, the Wellness and Recreation Center offers free group fitness classes to all members. Plus, there are a variety of class times to choose from to accommodate even the busiest schedule. Visit wrc.fiu.edu to view a list of class offerings.
Troy Moore is a certified exercise physiologist and a student in the kinesiology and exercise science program at FIU. He currently works as the graduate assistant of fitness at the Wellness and Recreation Center.