Peloton and METs

  • Brygs 

Following up on my post about the Peloton display numbers (and a little arithmetic regarding Output), a visitor to the site asked about METs, so I thought I’d post a follow-up….

Calculating METs is unfortunately considerably more difficult than calculating output in kilojoules. Well, it’s not that it’s so difficult, it’s that the level of precision is much less. METs are fundamentally different from metrics like power and output. Power is power, regardless of who you are. Lifting a ten pound dumbbell a foot in one second takes about 13 watts, and it doesn’t matter who you are. Find any person or machine that can output more than about 13 watts, and it can lift the dumbbell. (More about power and output in my post about the Peloton metrics.)

Metabolic Equivalents, or METs, on the other hand, is a measurement of the amount of energy exerted, a more complex topic than merely work done. Remember when you first got your Peloton bike and you PR’d almost every ride? Part of that could be explained by a quick elevation of your fitness level (you ex-couch potato, you), but a lot of it had to do with your improved efficiency. You learned the bike and, as you got more efficient you could do more work with the same amount of effort (or, you were able to do the same amount of work with less effort.)

How to Measure METs

To really measure METs the way they were intended to be measured, you’d need to know how much oxygen you are consuming during the exercise. If you don’t have access to a lab, that’s not something you can measure directly. In that case, there are other MET calculators that substitute other metrics that can be used as proxies for oxygen consumption, such as calories burned (don’t get me started on calorie calculations! If I ever have enough free time I’ll do a blog post on that.)

I personally am skeptical about the ability to use METs for something like a stationary bicycle. Since body weight is a factor in the calculation, it would seem to me that heavier athletes have an easier time of things on a stationary bike as opposed to an actual bike. I’d suggest you stick with watts and kilojoules, which are much easier to measure accurately (if your bike’s resistance is calibrated, of course, which it’s probably not… but that’s my next post’s topic).

Formula for METs

I don’t want you to go away empty-handed, though, so I will offer a MET calculator that uses something that Peloton does give you to work with: Watts. It may not be as accurate a calculation as one that actually measures oxygen consumption, but it’ll work well enough if your goal is to try to track your fitness gains over time.

The calculation for (approximate) METs, then, is:

METs = 1.163 * watts / kg

(Kg being body weight in kilograms)

For the arithmetic-challenged, I offer this handy online form:

Weight (lbs):

I’m not entirely sure how useful all of this was, but hopefully if you are really into METs and a Peloton rider, it’ll give you want you were looking for. Cheers!

— #LeftShark

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