Measuring Physical Activity

 Light <3.0 METs* Moderate 3.0–6.0 METs* Vigorous >6.0 METs* Walking—slowly = 2.0 Walking—very brisk (4mph) = 5.0; Walking/Hiking (4.5mph)= 7.0 Jogging at 6 mph = 10.0 Sitting—using computer = 1.5 Cleaning—heavy  = 3.0–3.5  (washing windows, vacuuming, mopping) Shoveling = 7.0–8.5 Standing—light work = 2.0-2.5   (cooking, washing dishes) Mowing lawn = 5.5  (walk power mower) Carrying heavy loads = 7.5 Fishing—sitting = 2.0 Playing most instruments = 2.0–2.5 Bicycling—light effort (10–12 mph) = 6.0 Badminton—recreational = 4.5 Tennis—doubles = 5.0 Bicycling fast (14–16 mph) = 10.0 Basketball game = 8.0 Soccer casual = 7.0  Tennis—singles = 8.0

*METs are metabolic equivalents. One MET is defined as the energy it takes to sit quietly. These MET estimates are for healthy adults.

Exercise experts measure activity in metabolic equivalents, or METs. One MET is defined as the energy it takes to sit quietly. For the average adult, this is about one calorie per every 2.2 pounds of body weight per hour; someone who weighs 160 pounds would burn approximately 70 calories an hour while sitting or sleeping.

Moderate-intensity activities are those that get you moving fast enough or strenuously enough to burn off three to six times as much energy per minute as you do when you are sitting quietly, or exercises that clock in at 3 to 6 METs. Vigorous-intensity activities burn more than 6 METs.

One limitation to this way of measuring exercise intensity is that it does not consider the fact that some people have a higher level of fitness than others. Thus, walking at 3 to 4 miles-per-hour is considered to require 4 METs and to be a moderate-intensity activity, regardless of who is doing the activity—a young marathon runner or a 90-year-old grandmother. As you might imagine, a brisk walk would likely be an easy activity for the marathon runner, but a very hard activity for the grandmother.

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