How to use MET to calculate Calories Burned in Workouts

Last Updated:
March 12, 2021

How to use MET to calculate Calories Burned in Workouts

Your body is constantly burning energy, even if you are just resting. However, how do you know how many calories you are burning throughout the day? Many experts recommend that you use MET to calculate your burnt calories. This is because it can be much more accurate than using the estimated calorie counters on your smartwatch or exercise machines. So how can you use MET to calculate calories burned? Here are the details.

What is MET?

MET stands for metabolic equivalent for task, this refers to the calorie consumption of an individual compared to the resting rate. While resting your body uses approximately 3.5 millilitres of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute. This is equal to 1 MET.  Activities are then categorized into MET levels; so 2 METs will refer to an activity that is twice the metabolic rate from resting.

Calculating how many calories you burn

The MET calculation is an easy way to estimate the calories you burn. To calculate the calories you burn, this process uses the resting oxygen level measurement (3.5), your weight and the MET level of the activity.

The MET level is worked out based on the intensity of your workout, in three main categories.

-       Under 3 MET = light activities that do not increase your heart rate.

-       3 to 6 MET = moderate activities that increase your heart rate and a light sweat.

-       Above 6 MET = intense activities that increase your heart rate, make you sweat and have you breathing harder.

The calculation is as follows. Workout duration x (MET level x 3.5 x weight in kilograms)/200 = calories burned. For example; someone who weighs 150lb or 68kg, running 4 miles in 30 minutes would be 30 x (11.8x3.5x68)/200 = 421.26 calories.

Common Workout MET Levels


The MET level for running depends on the speed you are going. The MET level of a slow jog is 7, an 8-minute mile has a level of 11.5 and a 5-minute mile has a level of 19.


The MET level for HIIT workouts varies per activity, however often has an average of 9.5 – 12.


A moderate outdoor bike ride has a MET level of 8, whereas a moderate stationary bike workout has a MET level of 7. A spin class workout has a MET level of 11.

Stair Climbing

The MET level for stair climbing can greatly vary. Running up stairs has a MET level of 15, a fast walk or jog up stairs has a MET level of 11 and an average workout on a stair climber has a MET level of 9.

Bodyweight Workout

Bodyweight workouts have an average MET level of 7.5, however, this can be higher depending on the intensity of your workout.

How can you use METs to reach your goals?

By measuring your exercises by their MET level, you can easily incorporate METs into your health and fitness goals. The American Heart Association recommends that you do a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily, or 100 MET minutes. For example, you could do a 30-minute walk or a 15-minute bodyweight workout. The more intense the workout, the sooner you hit the minimum recommendation. However, you should always be working towards a total 30 minutes per day of more intense exercise. Remember, the intensity level varies person-to-person depending on their fitness, so just do your best.

As you become more familiar with activity MET levels, it will be much easier to estimate your calories and ensure you get enough exercise throughout the week. MET levels allow you to have much more flexibility in your workout routine, as you understand how much energy you are expending. For example, if you’ve had a busy week you may choose to do 10 minutes of high-intensity exercise over the 30-minute walk you originally had planned. Hopefully this is helpful in understanding how to use MET to calculate calories burned. You can still burn those calories, just in less time.

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