After being discharged from hospital following my heart attack, I was utterly gobsmacked by how exhausting even the most basic of daily activities now felt. Taking a shower was a memorable example. It left me feeling surprisingly weak, shaky and gasping for breath.
In fact, a routine shower usually meant a 20-minute lie down afterwards just to recover. That’s when I first read about METS.
METS stands for “metabolic equivalents.” Different daily activities are assigned different MET levels depending on how much physical energy they take to do (see the list below).
The higher the MET level, the more energy the activity takes.
Your doctor may ask you to avoid activities that take more than three METS in the early days following a cardiac event. Taking a shower scores a 3.5. Well, no wonder it’s so tiring! Showering also includes raising the arms to shampoo our hair – and any activity that requires raising both arms above the head puts an extra workload on the heart known as the pressor response.
Here are some other common daily activities and their MET scores:
- Sitting in a chair 1.0
- Watching television 1.0
- Sweeping the floor 1.5
- Driving a car 2.0
- Bicycling, stationary, very light effort 3.0
- Walking 3 mph 3.0
- Ironing 3.5
- Showering 3.5
- Bowling 3.5
- Sex 3.7-5.0
- Golfing 4.0
- Gardening 4.5
- Playing tennis 6.0
- Lawn mowing 6.5
- Shoveling 7.0
- Downhill skiing 8.0
- Jumping rope 10.0
NOTE: One MET is the amount of energy required at rest, equal to approximately 70 calories per hour; three METs represent an exercise intensity equivalent to three times the metabolic rate at rest. Using the MET concept, according to the journal Clinical Cardiology, can provide “a convenient method to describe the functional capacity or exercise tolerance of an individual.” Please consult your own physician before determining which exercises are appropriate for your cardiac health.
- When routine tasks trigger heart symptoms
- Why your heart needs work – not rest! – after a heart attack
- Are you reading this sitting down? Don’t!
- Women’s heart health advice: “Walk often, walk far!”