Does effort level correspond with energy use during exercise?


Absolutely! The more effort you exert during physical activity or exercise the more energy you will use. This is why you burn more calories when training at higher intensities. Increased energy expenditure yields more caloric burn. Just like gas mileage in an automobile, the faster and more aggressive you drive, the more fuel will be burned. This same concept occurs in the body.  

Eric Olsen

There's a difference between "relative" effort and "absolute" effort, and this is where physiology and common sense seem to part company. When the intensity of activity is measured in terms of METs, this measurement refers to an absolute level of intensity of effort that's completely independent of how you might feel while doing it. MET refers to energy costs of physical activity, as a multiple of resting metabolic rate, one MET. Two individuals of the same age, height, and weight, one who has been resolutely sedentary for years, the other a fitness fanatic, could both walk a mile at a two-mile-an-hour pace (about 2 METs), and although they'll both be covering the same distance at the same pace, and will expend about the same number of calories, they'll have completely different experiences.

For the sedentary fellow, that mile may seem like a death march. He'll finish up -- if he finishes at all -- with his heart thumping around in his chest like a beached trout. And if someone -- a researcher with an interest in such things, for example -- were to come along just then and ask, the sedentary fellow would probably rate his effort, once he caught his breath, as very strong, close to his maximum. On the other hand, that same mile will seem to be barely a warm-up for the other fellow.

Although it seems as if the sedentary fellow is consuming more oxygen and expending more energy because he is so obviously working harder, in fact, both men are consuming about the same amount of oxygen, both are expending about the same amount of energy, both are exercising at the same low intensity, however different their experiences may be. It seems counterintuitive and, from the perspective of the hard-working former couch potato, downright unfair.

The fact is, because the sedentary fellow is out of shape, it takes more effort for him to perform the same amount of work; but for all that huffing and puffing, he's not getting any more work completed (work defined as moving mass through a specific distance) than the athlete who has yet to break a sweat.

Lifefit: An Effective Exercise Program for Optimal Health and a Longer Life

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Lifefit: An Effective Exercise Program for Optimal Health and a Longer Life

An easy-to-follow programme for lengthening and improving lives. More than an exercise guide, this text is an effective tool for making meaningful lifestyle decisions to benefit long-term fitness. In...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.