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Energy Expenditure of Activities

Physical activity has a large effect on total human energy expenditure, and contributes 20-30% to the body's total energy output. The amount of energy expended for different activities will vary with the intensity and type of exercise. For each person, the range for total daily energy expenditure is highly variable, it depends on many factors, including: activity level, age, gender, size, weight and body composition.

One of the easiest methods for recording the intensity of a physical activity is the Metabolic Equivalent Task (MET) method. The energy cost of many activities has been determined, usually by monitoring the oxygen consumption during the activity, to determine an average oxygen uptake per unit of time. This value is then compared to the resting oxygen uptake. One MET is the energy expended at rest, two METs indicates the energy expended is twice that at rest, three METs is triple the resting energy expenditure, etc.

Remember that MET values for each activity are approximations; there may be considerable individual variation. To get daily or weekly MET scores, multiply the MET value for each activity (from the table below) by the hours expended in that activity each time, then add all the activities over the time period.

MET Table

Activity level METs/Hr of Activity Activity
Very Light 1.3 Standing
  1.5 Reading, talking on telephone
  1.8 Sitting in class, studying, note taking
Light 2.0 Walking at a slow pace (1-2 mi/hr), playing a musical instrument, light gardening, light office work, light use of hand tools (watch repair or micro-assembly, light assembly/repair); standing, light work (bartending, store clerk, assembling, filing)
Light Plus 2.5 Walking downstairs, cooking, light housekeeping, shopping, pushing a stroller with child, walking a dog
  2.5 - 3 Walking at an average pace (2-2.5 mi/hr), slow dancing, Golf (using power cart), bowling, fishing
  3.0 Standing doing light/moderate work (assemble/repair heavy parts, welding, auto repair, pack boxes for moving, etc), patient care (as in nursing); driving heavy tractor, bus or truck, Washing car or windows, mopping, moderately vigorous playing with children, sweeping outside house, vacuuming, picking fruit or vegetables, scrubbing floors
Moderately Vigorous 3.5 Walking at a brisk pace (1 mi every 20 min), weight lifting, water aerobics, golf (not carrying clubs), leisurely canoeing or kayaking, walking on job, 3 mph (one mile every twenty minutes), in office - moderate speed, not carrying anything, or carrying only light articles.
  4 Walking at a very brisk pace (1 mi every 17 to 18 min), climbing stairs, dancing (moderately fast), leisurely bicycling <10 mph, raking the lawn, planting shrubs, weeding the garden, heavy yard work or gardening activities, masonry, painting, paper hanging, moderately heavy lifting, moderately heavy farm work.
Moderately Vigorous Plus 4.5 Slow swimming, golf (carrying clubs)
  5 Walking at a very brisk pace (one mi every 15 min), most doubles tennis, dancing (more rapid), some exercise apparatuses, walking downstairs or standing, carrying objects about 25-49 lb, digging, spading, vigorous gardening, using heavy power tools; general gardening, mowing lawn (hand mower), painting, carpentry, cleaning gutters, laying carpet, other vigorous activities, chopping wood.
Vigorous 6 Slow jogging (one mi every 13 to 14 min), Ice or roller skating, Doubles tennis (if you run a lot), Using heavy tools (not power) such as shovel, pick, spade; driving heavy machinery, forestry
  6 - 7 Hiking
  6 - 8 Rowing, canoeing, kayaking vigorously, Dancing (vigorous), Some exercise apparatuses
  6-10 Bicycling 10 to 16 mph, Swimming laps moderately fast to fast, aerobic calisthenics
  7 - 12 Singles tennis, squash, racquetball
  8 Jogging (1 mile every 12 min), Skiing downhill or cross country, Heavy farming work
  10 Running 6 mph (10-minute mile)
  13.5 Running 8 mph (7.5-minute mile)
  16 Running 10 mph (6-minute mile)

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