After spending the weekend watching my husband clean up gravel (thanks to the City of Prince George!) and then rake our lawn, trim trees, and basically do a lot of yard maintenance, I realized how much energy he was expending. Now that it is spring and everyone is outside, let’s talk about METs.
What does this physiological acronym mean? A MET is a factor of the “metabolic equivalent” of rest or “resting metabolism”. Let’s back up one step and understand metabolism first … metabolism is how we convert the food we eat into a form of energy that our cells can use. We have many different chemical processes that operate our bodies (like breathing, pumping blood to working muscles, digestion, and blinking, just to name a few) and they all need energy (or calories) to work. When you are lying in bed, you have a very low energy requirement – so this is 1 MET.
2 METs means it is twice the metabolic rate of rest, so, relaxing and watching TV or playing on your iPad would be about 2 METs. When we lead a sedentary life, we have a low energy requirement. Then if we are overfed, we take in too much energy for the needs of our body and we store the extra energy as fat [ouch].
How do we increase our MET numbers? We can quantify any activity (even household chores) on this MET exercise continuum and the more we do, the more energy we need to power our bodies. All low-grade activity counts in our daily energy burn and not all of it has to be classified as ‘exercise’.
Light activity is in the 3-4 MET range. Some examples are weeding and raking in your yard.
Moderate activity is in the 5-6 MET range. Some examples are mowing your grass and digging a flower bed.
The more intense the activity, the higher the MET factor. And it is all based on time, so because my husband worked for several hours over the weekend getting our yard ready for summer, he burned a lot of calories.
Let’s calculate his caloric expenditure for the raking he did (3.5 METS, he weighs 85 kgs, and he worked for 3 hours):
Raking: MET x weight (in kilograms) x time (in hours) = kcal
Total calories burned: 3.5 METs x 85 kg x 3 hours = 892 kcal (or 892 calories)
This means he burned off an additional 890+ calories over and above his resting metabolic rate, so I believe he earned his Sleemans Honey Brown (which is about 290 calories for one pint). Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of good nutritional value in the beer, but he enjoyed the reward for his hard work.
The bottom-line is that gardening is work and so gardening counts as exercise. The more you do, the more you burn, so try and enjoy all the spring yard work and celebrate the extra boost to your caloric expenditure!