Errors in MET Estimates of Physical Activities Using 3.5 ml·kg−1·min−1 as the Baseline Oxygen Consumption

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Purpose:

To compare intensity misclassification and activity MET values using measured RMR (measMET) compared with 3.5 ml·kg−1·min−1 (standMET) and corrected METs [corrMET = mean standMET × (3.5 ÷ Harris-Benedict RMR)] in subgroups.

Methods:

RMR was measured for 252 subjects following a 4-hr fast and before completion of 11 activities. VO2 was measured during activity using indirect calorimetry (n = 2555 activities). Subjects were classified by BMI category (normal-weight or overweight/obese), sex, age (decade 20, 30, 40, or 50 y), and fitness quintiles (low to high). Activities were classified into low, moderate, and vigorous intensity categories.

Results:

The (mean ± SD) measMET was 6.1 ± 2.64 METs. StandMET [mean (95% CI)] was (0.51(0.42, 0.59) METs) less than measMET. CorrMET was not statistically different from measMET (−0.02 (−0.11, 0.06) METs). 12.2% of the activities were misclassified using standMETs compared with an 8.6% misclassification rate for METs based on predicted RMR (P < .0001). StandMET differences and misclassification rates were highest for low fit, overweight, and older individuals while there were no differences when corrMETs were used.

Conclusion:

Using 3.5 ml·kg−1·min−1 to calculate activity METs causes higher misclassification of activities and inaccurate point estimates of METs than a corrected baseline which considers individual height, weight, and age. These errors disproportionally impact subgroups of the population with the lowest activity levels.

Kozey, Lyden, and Freedson are with the Dept of Kinesiology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA. Staudenmayer is with the Dept of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA.

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