I prefer using a simple equation published by the American Heart Association and cited in ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal (1). This formula is for calculating estimated caloric expenditure using METS:
[(MET value) x 3.5 x (weight in kg)]/200 = calories burned per minute.
The Compendium of Physical Activities provides MET values for a wide variety of sports and fitness activities as well as activities of daily living. (2) Table 11-6 in the ACE Personal Trainer Manual, 4th edition, also lists MET values for common light, moderate, and vigorous activities.
Let’s walk through an example for a 150 lb. (68 kg) woman who runs for 30 minutes at a 6 mph pace (10 METs).
[(10 mets) x 3.5 x (68 kg)]/200 = 2380/200 = 11.9 calories burned per minute
11.9 calories/min x 30 min = 357 calories burned per 30 minute run.
This equation is not gender-specific. Keep in mind that many factors affect the number of calories burned by an individual in any given workout; thus, calculating energy expenditure offers an estimate of calories burned.
The ACE Personal Trainer Manual offers an alternate equation to use when VO2 is known:
Caloric expenditure = [VO2(ml/kg/min) x body weight (kg)/1000] x 5 kcal/L/min
For formulas specific to walking, running, stepping, leg cycling, and arm cycling, check out Table 7.3 in ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 9th edition.
For a fast and easy way to determine calories burned, use the ACE Physical Activity Calorie Counter.
1. Humphrey R, The Exercise Caloric Challenge, Clinical Applications, ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, March/April 2006, Vol. 10, No. 2 pp.40-41
2. Ainsworth B, Haskell WL, White MC, et al. Compendium of physical activities: an update of activity codes and MET intensities. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000;32(suppl):S498-S504