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Caloric Expenditure of the Winter Games
Written by March 1, 2010

Michael Harper, MEd

Associate Director of Education
The Cooper Institute

Tags
activity
caloric
calories
expenditure
mets
olympic
olympics
winter
Caloric Expenditure of the Winter Games

The 2010 Winter Olympics, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada ended yesterday. There were fifteen sports and 85 medal events. These events were split up into three categories of ice sports, alpine skiing/snowboarding and Nordic events.

Here at The Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas I felt a little bit more connected to the games this year…  Most due to the actual winter blasts we’ve had. During the games we had colder than normal temperatures and it even snowed.  We set a new 24 hour snowfall record at over 12.5”.

With a winter wonderland in Dallas and the winter Olympics it was impossible not to want to participate in my own winter games. I couldn’t build my own Luge track but some of the cars I saw sliding around on the highway made it look like I did. I did go sledding, shoveled snow and built a snowman.

During this fun I was a bit curious if I was getting any caloric expenditure.   Also, I wondered how much energy is burned in an event that sometimes lasts only a few seconds and looks to be just using gravity to go downhill.

You might be a bit surprised to see the expenditures:1

  • Vigorous Downhill Skiing at race pace – 8.0 METS
  • Bobsledding and Luge – 7.0 METS
  • Cross Country Skiing at more than 8mph (racing) – 14.0 METS
  • Cross Country Skiing uphill at race pace – 16.5 METS
  • Speed Skating – 15.0 METS
  • Curling – 4.0 METS
  • Ice Hockey – 8.0 METS
  • Shoveling snow by hand – 6.0 METS

Remember a MET is a way of describing the amount of energy (calories) the body is burning relative to energy burned at complete rest. One MET is equal to 1 kcal/kg/hour or the same as rest or sitting quietly, two METs means the body is burning calories at twice the rate of rest, three METs is three times, and so on. So if you are shoveling snow by hand, you are burning six times as much energy as you would be just sitting at rest.

To meet the current recommendations for adults one should do at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week (or some combo of the two). As was discussed in the past blog “Moderate Means What,” 3.0-5.9 METS equals moderate intensity.

So I was doing pretty well when shoving my sidewalks!

1Ainsworth BE. (2002, January) The Compendium of Physical Activities Tracking Guide. Prevention Research Center, Norman J. Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina. Retrieved [02/25/10] from the World Wide Web. http://prevention.sph.sc.edu/tools/docs/documents_compendium.pdf

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