You can boost your fitness level by paying attention to the treadmill METs readout that is displayed on your machine’s console. These metabolic equivalents of task are a measure to help determine your exercise intensity. Higher METs means you are burning calories!
Exercising at a moderate intensity is estimated to be between 4 and 6 METs. So what is a MET? It is the ratio of work metabolic rate as compared to resting metabolic rate. According to sports medicine, 1 MET equates to an average of 3.5ml of oxygen per kilogram of body weight that an individual burns while at rest. So sleeping, sitting quietly, or even lying on the couch watching TV is equivalent to 1 MET.
When jogging or running on a treadmill, METs help to measure how much additional energy your body is using. It is also used in determining how many calories you are burning.
To calculate treadmill METs and calories burned during a workout session, you must enter your age and weight to the treadmill’s computer on the display. The treadmill uses a simple formula to calculate METs and calories – it won’t be the actual milliliters of oxygen consumed since there are many other factors involved – but it will give you a general idea of the intensity level you are working at. MET is an index number and not an energy unit.
For example, using this formula, you can calculate:
Calories burned = ((METs * 3.5 * weight in kg) / 200) * duration in minutes
Generally, researchers use 2 METs representing walking 2 miles per hour, 5 METs for a rapid walk of 4 mph, and 8 METs for jogging at 6 mph. As you can see, the more effort required by the body to perform an activity, the higher the MET value. There are standard tables that give general METs values for any type of exercise, not just walking and running.
Remember in the formula above that the 3.5 number represents milliliters of oxygen. So to calculate a 150-pound (68 kg) person walking at 4 mph on a treadmill, it would be:
5 METs x 3.5 x 68 / 200 = 5.9 calories per minute or 357 calories in an hour.
If you see a reading of 5 METs on your treadmill display, it means you are working 5 times harder than you would be at rest. By “working harder,” it means your body is consuming 5 times as much oxygen and 5 times as many calories doing the 4 mph walk than if you were sitting still doing a couch potato impression.
You don’t need to use a formula to figure out treadmill METs if you have a machine that will do it for you. When you see MET readouts of hopefully 5 to 8 METs for moderate workouts and 10 METs or higher for more strenuous exercise, you will have a good idea of how much intensity you are bringing to your workout.