Every year the Austin Public Safety Wellness Center (APSWC) measures the VO2 max scores and MET scores for City of Austin firefighters and emergency medical services personnel. While these numbers are important to assess the cardiovascular health of our first responders, few people know what these scores actually mean.
MET stands for metabolic equivalent and is a measurement of the amount oxygen required to perform a specific activity. It represents the ability of the body to use oxygen during those activities. A MET score of 1 is the amount of energy required to sit still whereas a MET score of 12 is the amount of energy required to perform basic fire suppression skills in personal protective equipment. Individuals who are not able to reach an intensity level of 12 METS are at an increased risk of a cardiac event.
MET Values of Common Activities
- Moderate pace walking (4.5 METS)
- Leisurely bike ride (4 METS)
- Stretching (4 METS)
- Pulling hose (8 METS)
- Moving/carrying/pushing objects more than 75 lbs (7.5 METS)
- Using pike pole (6.8 METS)
- Climbing ladder with full gear (11 METS)
- Climbing stairs at moderate/fast pace (15 METS)
- High intensity rowing (12 METS)
While MET represents the body’s ability to use oxygen, VO2 max measures the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles during activity. Cardiovascular exercise can increase VO2 max by strengthening the heart, therefore improving the heart’s ability to pump oxygen to the muscles.
To put it simply, both of these tests measure your body’s ability to utilize oxygen while performing physical activity, which is an indicator of fitness level. Just as we can measure the length of an object in centimeters and inches we can measure cardiovascular fitness in VO2 max and MET score.