The energy cost of common tasks in rural Nepal: levels of energy expenditure compatible with sustained physical activity

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Three hundred and six measurements of energy expenditure by indirect calorimetry of sitting at rest and self-paced activity were made on 41 men, 48 women and 6 adolescents in a mountain village of Nepal. Except for walking and carrying uphill, measured activities fell within the range of values for light to moderate effort, despite appearing physically demanding. Villagers tended to reduce travel speed when carrying heavy loads (54–102% of body mass on various inclines), averaging a moderate level of energy expenditure which could be sustained throughout the day. Such moderately demanding work was also assumed by pregnant, lactating women and young adolescents. Pregnant women worked more slowly at some tasks, but did not differentiate themselves from their non-pregnant, non-lactating counterparts for travel on the mountain side.