I am from a mathematical background so I don't have much knowledge on biology. I'm building a mathematical model to predict heat generation with parameters of metabolic heat generation and exercise heat generation.

Metabolic heat generation as far as I understand is the heat produced through body's chemical processes, digestion of food, and elimination of waste.

In this article here, the value for metabolic heat generation is given as 33800$W/m^3$. But the exercise intensities as given here only has values of around $582 W/m^2$.

I think we produce more heat when we exercise than through metabolic activities alone. Is this correct?

If so, why does this huge difference in values of 33800 and 582? Why would the heat generated via exercise be such a low value? (Of course they are not measured in same units.)

Is there any other unit other than $W/m^2$ that measures the heat generated through exercises so that it gives a resonably at least closer value to metabolic heat generation?

  • $\begingroup$ I tried to clarify your question and make the text easier to understand...you can change things back if I have unintentionally changed the meaning of your question. $\endgroup$ Dec 8, 2015 at 4:20
  • $\begingroup$ You did notice that the units you listed are different right? One is W/volume and other is W/area. $\endgroup$
    – akaDrHouse
    Dec 10, 2015 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ @akaDrHouse Yes the units are different. I am asking if there a way to compare the metabolic heat and energy from exercises? metabolic heat per volume is so higher than the exercise heat per surface. Shoudn't exercise generate more heat? $\endgroup$
    – clarkson
    Dec 11, 2015 at 3:51

1 Answer 1


First, you have to convert your numbers to the same units for any comparison to make sense. Consider that the average human body has a surface area of about 1.8m$^2$ and a volume of about 66L = 0.066m$^3$. Then your numbers are equivalent to 2230W metabolic heat and 1050W exercise heat for an average person.

The value 2230W for basal metabolic rate (from Table 1 of the Bagum et al paper) is nowhere near what's measured in practise. Basal metabolic rate ("metabolic equivalent", 1 MET) would be 105W for an average person according to the wikipedia page you cited, which equals 2150 kcal / day. That's about the recommended daily calorie intake, so it makes sense. I don't know where their value of 33,800 W/m$^3$ for "metabolic heat generation" comes from, perhaps it's meant represent something else (can't say I understand the article) but it's not the metabolic rate for an average human tissue.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .