Determining energy expenditure during some household and garden tasks

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002 May;34(5):895-902. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200205000-00026.


Purpose: This study: a) calculated the reproducibility (intraclass correlation coefficient, ICC) and precision (technical error of measurement, TEM) for VO2 during moderate paced walking, self-paced sweeping, window cleaning, vacuuming and lawn mowing; b) determined which of the five activities rated >or= 3.0 when exercise intensity was calculated in METs (1 MET or metabolic equivalent = VO2 of 3.5 and multiples of the measured resting metabolic rate (RMR); and c) expanded the limited database on energy expenditure during household and garden activities.

Methods: Twelve men and 12 women (mean +/- SD: 39.3 +/- 3.4 yr; 171.6 +/- 9.6 cm; 81.0 +/- 15.5 kg) were measured for RMR and VO2 during the five activities on two separate days via indirect calorimetry by using the Douglas bag method.

Results: The interday ICCs and TEMs for the five activities ranged from 0.81 to 0.97 and from 2.1 to 7.0%, respectively. The means were significantly (P < 0.001) above 3.0 for moderate paced walking (range = 3.3-8.7), sweeping (2.9-6.7), window cleaning (3.0-6.0), vacuuming (2.6-4.4), and lawn mowing (4.9-7.5) when VO2 was divided by measured RMR, but one and five subjects scored below 3.0 for sweeping and vacuuming, respectively. Division of exercise VO2 by the convention of 3.5 mL significantly decreased (P < 0.001) each mean, and lawn mowing (5.0 METs) was the only activity where all subjects scored above 3.0 METs (P < 0.001; 3.8-6.4); nevertheless, the means for walking (3.7 METs), sweeping (3.2 METs), and window cleaning (3.6 METs) were also in the moderate intensity category of 3-6 METs.

Conclusions: These data: a) emphasize that the VO2 during self-paced moderate intensity walking and self-paced household and garden activities can be measured with reproducibility and precision, b) demonstrate that expressing energy expenditure in conventional METs yields lower values than when it is presented as a multiple of measured RMR, c) suggest that all activities except vacuuming are performed at moderate intensity when energy expenditure is expressed in conventional METs, and d) highlight the biological variability in energy expenditure when different people perform the same task.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Adult
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Reproducibility of Results