By Chris Valuck

670px-Work-out-on-an-Elliptical-Machine-Step-6“Do I really need to know all this?” asked a resident, while preparing to use a piece of exercise equipment in the Wellness Center. “I just want to walk on the treadmill,” she said.

Technically, you don’t have to understand all of the information on the displays of the Nu-Steps, treadmills, bikes, and ellipticals in order to use them.  Most people just like to see how far they’ve gone (distance) and how long it took to do it (time). But, for the residents who have expressed an interest in knowing all about the equipment displays, let’s start with the MET.


A Metabolic Equivalent of Task or MET, is simply the amount of energy it takes to perform a particular activity.  1-MET equals the amount of energy expended during one minute of rest (e.g., sitting calmly or lying down); whereas walking at a moderate pace might be 3-METS, or running might be 11-METS or more, depending on how fast you are going.

MET levels are not only assigned to fitness activities, but also include Activities of Daily Living such as vacuuming, gardening, walking the dog, etc.  If you have ever had a stress test in your doctor’s office, your test results may show a MET level that you accomplished before you needed to stop the test because of fatigue or other symptoms (e.g. cardiac-related).  This MET level may then be used to determine which activities of daily living are most appropriate for your condition.


RPM:  This stands for revolutions per minute.  It is a measure of the frequency of rotation (around a fixed axis).  That’s why you’ll see RPM on the recumbent bike displays, but not on a treadmill.  The RPM go up as you pedal faster and go down when you pedal more slowly.  This is a measure that you might want to monitor if your goal is to maintain a certain speed over a period of time.

SPM:  Here’s where it gets a little confusing.  SPM stands for steps per minute when on the Nu-Step and strides per minute when on the elliptical.  On the elliptical, 2 strides equal 1-RPM (if you are interested in converting this measure). In either case, just like the RPM on the bikes, the harder you work, the higher the number.

WATT:  When you see WATT displayed on the cardio equipment, it is a measure of work or effort produced by the exerciser.  So, the higher the watt, the more power being produced.

Bottom line:  On any given piece of cardiovascular equipment, find a speed that is challenging, but attainable.  You should be working at a level that still allows you to carry on a conversation (we call this “the talk test”).  You should also be able to rate your own perceived exertion on a scale of 1-10.  Aim for a light-to-moderate intensity of about 3-4 (out of 10) on the Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale.  For more details, on the RPE Scale, pick up a copy in the Wellness Center.



Health Services plays a vital role in providing residents with the support they need in the continuum of care at Plymouth Harbor. Whether having their blood pressure checked on the way back from a morning fitness class, or recuperating in the Smith Care Center after a brief illness, knowing that qualified, caring health care professionals are on-site and just a phone call away provides residents with the sense of security they need to freely engage in an active, satisfying lifestyle.