You can calculate calories burned during exercise with the MET formula, which estimates how much energy your body uses during a specific activity
You can get a close estimate of the calories burned during exercise with the help of the following formula:
- Total calories burned in 1 minute = (3.5 times the metabolic equivalent or MET multiplied by your body weight in kilograms)/200.
- In the above equation, 1 MET equals 3.5 mL of oxygen consumed per kilogram of body weight per minute.
For example, say you weigh 150 pounds (approximately 68 kg) and you are running at 7 mph, which has a MET value of 11.5. The formula would work as follows:
- 11.5 × 3.5 × 68/200 = 13.69 calories per minute.
- If you run for 30 minutes, you will burn about 410 calories.
What is MET?
MET is the ratio of your working metabolic rate relative to your resting metabolic rate. Your metabolic rate is the rate of energy used per unit of time, whether you are active or sitting still. It is a term that gives you an idea of the intensity level of a particular activity.
MET is standardized so that the value can be used for all groups of people, irrespective of their age, sex, and genetics. The value makes it easier to compare different activities to each other.
One MET is your resting or basal metabolic rate (BMR). So, if there is an activity with MET 4, it simply means that you are spending 4 times more energy than you would spend while you are doing nothing.
How accurate is the MET formula?
The MET formula provides a very broad estimate, and it will not provide the exact number of calories burned during a particle activity. If you want to get an accurate number, the only way is to go to a lab that can do the work for you. They will attach you to machines that will calculate all the numbers correctly from your maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 max) to determine the calories burned during exercise.
However, since it isn’t possible to go to such great lengths, you can track your progress by calculating the nearest value provided using the MET formula. You can increase or decrease the intensity of your exercise accordingly.
While cardio machines also provide you with an estimate of calories burned, keep in mind that they cannot provide accurate figures because various factors determine the intensity of the exercise. These factors include:
- Age: As you age, your ability to perform an exercise at the same intensity as when you were younger decreases.
- Body composition: Someone with more muscle mass can burn calories more efficiently than a person with comparatively less muscle mass.
- Diet: Fad diets, skipping meals, or not eating enough can cause your metabolism to crash, which can affect your calorie burn rate.
- Sleep: Not getting enough sleep can affect your glucose metabolism and hormone levels, which can decrease your metabolism. Insufficient sleep can also make you more fatigued and less motivated to exercise.
- Temperature: If the temperature of the room or the environment in which you are exercising is high, you will burn more calories. It’s best to avoid overdoing it in such cases, as your body temperature may go too high and you may fall prey to heat exhaustion.
Medically Reviewed on 10/20/2021
Jetté M, Sidney K, Blümchen G. Metabolic equivalents (METS) in exercise testing, exercise prescription, and evaluation of functional capacity. Clin Cardiol. 1990 Aug;13(8):555-65. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2204507/