A MET is an absolute value used by exercise physiologists to help us understand how much work is being expended by any given activity based on how much oxygen you are using to complete the activity.
The measurement is based on your weight. Once you have determined your personal value based on your weight and oxygen needs, you can then determine all sorts of caloric values for a number of activities. This helps you count all the household chores, shopping, activity at work, play, and daily living activities you do everyday toward your exercise goals.
You can find the caloric burn of things like sleeping (.9 METs) or working at my desk (1.8 METs) to things like vigorous exercise and high intensity workouts.
When we think about moving for mental health and brain function lots of things count. It does not have to include an expensive gym membership or fancy equipment. It is a simple as standing up and sitting back down 10 x right now or marching in place while swinging your arms, ok that one may be a little hard, but not expensive! It really is just the mindset that I have to move everyday. Movement IS medicine.
As you exercise you help build the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of our brains active in memory formation. During periods of high stress the hippocampus is damaged by glucocorticoids (stress chemicals in the body) and as a result does not function as well. Research shows that those with mental health disorders related to emotional dysregulation may be operating with a smaller hippocampus. Physical exercise has the benefit of increasing brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Increasing BDNF is a factor in neuroplasticity and helps build the hippocampus, thus increasing your ability to regulate your emotions, focus, and remember. Not so bad for something so free, huh?
Movement for mental health doesn’t have to be hard … it just has to be done.
Want a quick and easy way to see how hard you are working? Check out the Compendium of Physical Activities
Want more info on METs? National Public Radio just did a story on using METs to reach your fitness goals: Read the NPR story here.
Interesting in calculating your own activities? Check out this calculator to help you determine your calories burned: MET Calculator
Read past blog posts on METs and using them for cardiovascular exercise.