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Metabolic Equivalent: How to Calculate Your Calorie Expenditure During Exercise

Perhaps out of indolence, but also out of concern about blood sugar imbalances, many type 2 diabetics exercise significantly less than would be good for them. According to experts, this does not have to be the case, because with the help of the "metabolic equivalent" it is relatively easy to determine the calorie consumption during exercise and thus a healthy amount of exercise that is safe for diabetics.

Correctly assess energy consumption

When doing sport and exercise, diabetics should calculate relatively precisely how many bread units (BU) - i.e. carbohydrates with an effect on blood sugar - and how many calories they consume. The experts at the symposium of the AG Movement of the German Diabetes Society (DGG) concluded that only with both values ​​together can you optimally balance blood sugar fluctuations through your diet or medication.

Basically, of course, the more intensely you exercise, the more calories your body needs. Every movement requires energy, but the exact number of calories burned always depends on the intensity and duration, but also on body weight. This is exactly what is calculated with the MET value.

Important to know: There are still no studies in which the MET value is calculated specifically for women or men of different ages.

The metabolic equivalent

The metabolic equivalent - MET for short - is a unit of measurement for the intensity of exercise or sport. Experts have developed them to better estimate calorie consumption and to be able to determine a healthy amount of exercise per week.

In contrast to the resting metabolic rate, the metabolic equivalent - "Metabolic Equivalent of Task" - denotes the metabolic rate, i.e. how much energy the body needs for a task or activity. The MET value is defined as the oxygen consumption of a 40-year-old man weighing 70 kg at rest. Alternatively, the metabolic equivalent can also be defined in terms of calorie consumption.

1 MET = 3.5 ml oxygen / per kg body weight / per minute for men and 3.15 ml for women
or: 1 MET = 1kcal / per 1kg body weight / per 1 hour of sport

A concrete example: the higher the MET value for a sport or physical activity, the more energy is consumed. One hour of lawn mowing consumes around 3.5 METs, an hour of jogging or dancing, on the other hand, between 7 and 12 METs. With a weight of 80 kg, around 10x80, i.e. 800 kcal per hour are consumed when jogging, and 280 kcal when mowing the lawn.

How much exercise is healthy?

A meta-analysis, i.e. an extensive evaluation of studies, which was published in the medical journal British Medical Journal, now for the first time took into account the total amount of physical activity from household to recreational sport and used the metabolic equivalent for this.

The results: A higher degree of exercise is associated with a lower risk of diabetes, but also of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart disease and stroke, with the best result being achieved with a total activity of 3000-4000 MET minutes per week. According to researchers, the minimum level of 600 MET minutes recommended by the World Health Organization is significantly too low. According to experts, this also applies to type 2 diabetes.

You can find examples of MET values ​​on the German Diabetes Aid page.

If you are below the recommended 3000 MET, you should increase the exercise program slowly but continuously, depending on your constitution.