home   The metabolic equivalent, or MET, is a way of measuring physical activity intensity level. Although the intensity of certain activities is commonly characterized as light, moderate, or vigorous, many activities can be classified in any one or all three categories simply on the basis of the level of personal effort involved in carrying out the activity (i.e., how hard one is working to do the activity). For example, one can bicycle at intensities ranging from very light to very vigorous. The table, General Physical Activities Defined By Level of Intensity(PDF), provides one method of characterizing physical activities at different levels of effort based on the standard of a metabolic equivalent (MET). This unit is used to estimate the amount of oxygen used by the body during physical activity (Ainsworth et al., 1993). 

1 MET = the energy (oxygen) used by the body as you sit quietly, perhaps while talking on the phone or reading a book.

The harder your body works during the activity, the higher the MET. 

  • Any activity that burns 3 to 6 METs is considered moderate-intensity physical activity.
  • Any activity that burns > 6 METs is considered vigorous-intensity physical activity.
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Originally published by the Department of Health and Human Services










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