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Assess Cardiorespiratory Endurance

Learn how to assess your cardiorespiratory endurance for you or your clients.It is important to assess your cardiorespiratory endurance. Cardiorespiratory endurance, or aerobic capacity, is one of the most important components of fitness.

Low levels of cardiorespiratory endurance have been associated with increased risk of premature death from all causes, most specifically from cardiovascular disease.

In addition, greater aerobic fitness usually means that an individual is regularly active, and this has been linked with many health benefits.


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3 Minute Step Test

The premise underlying the step test is that if a client has a low recovery heart rate one minute after stepping, he/she is in better physical condition and therefore has a higher VO2 max and a higher level of aerobic fitness. The protocol for administering the 3-Minute Step Test follows:


1. Explain the purpose of the test to your client and describe the procedure. It is a good idea to suggest that clients refrain from conversation since talking, laughing, etc may elevate their heart rate (although they must be encouraged to report any pain or discomfort). Static stretching of the gastrocneminus, hamstring and iliopsoas muscles may be advised; and a short practice session is allowed (two or three step cycles). There is no active warm-up.

2. Set the metronome at 96 bpm (24 step cycles per minute), and when the client begins stepping, start your timer or stopwatch. For this test, stepping must be performed on a 12-inch bench with a basic step pattern of up, up, down, down. The lead foot may change if necessary during the test (no continuous alternating lead). Have your client step for three full minutes, and let them know when one minute has passed, two minutes have passed, and when 10 seconds are remaining

3. When the three minutes are up, remind the client to sit down immediately; within five seconds palpate the recovery heart rate (preferably on the radial artery at the wrist), Count the recovery heart rate for one full minute.

4. Use the minute value for the recovery heart rate and consult the norms appropriate for the client’s age and sex. (Norms are also available that estimate VO2 max based on recovery heart rate.)  

3 minute step test norms chart you can download and print.


Download medium 3 minute step test norms chart (17" by 11")



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The Rockport walking treadmill test

This test was developed in 1986 by the Rockport Walking Institute to measure the cardio endurance of the general public.



Here is how to perform the Rockport Walking Treadmill Test

1. Precede the test with a warm-up consisting of static stretching and walking on the treadmill. Find the exact pace at which the client can walk vigorously for one mile.

2. Have the client walk at the established pace for one mile. Record the time.

3. Immediately palpate the pulse for 10 seconds and then allow the client to cool down.

4. Multiply the 10-second count by six.

5. Plug your results into the vo2 formula below


VO2 max = 132.853 - (0.0769 x weight in lb [0.03488 x weight in kg]) - (0.3877 x age in yr) + (6.315 x gender [0 for female, 1 for male]) - (3.2649 x time [min to the nearest 100th]) – (0.1565 x HR at end of test)

Formula to calculate your vo2 max for the Rockport walking test. 


*The result is in milliliters per kilogram per minute.


6. Check the VO2 norms chart for your results.

vo2 max norms chart

Other treadmill test 

Here are some other treadmill assessments that have been tested over the years. 

Balke Treadmill Protocol 

To administer the Balke and Ware exercise protocol, set the treadmill speed at 3.4 mph and the initial grade of the treadmill at 0% during the first minute of exercise.  

Maintain a constant speed on the treadmill throughout the entire exercise text. At the start of the second minute of exercise, increase the grade to 2%. Thereafter, at the beginning of every additional minute of exercise, increase the grade by only 1%. 

Bruce Treadmill Protocol 

The Bruce, Kusumi, and Hosmer (1973) exercise test is a multistaged treadmill protocol. The protocol increases the workload by changing both the treadmill speed and percent grade.

During the first stage (minutes 1 to 3) of the tes, the normal individual walks at a 1.7 mph pace at 10% grade. 

At the start of the second stage (minutes 4 to 6), increase the grade by 2% and the speed by either 0.8 or 0.9 mph until the client is exhausted. 

Treadmill Ramp Protocols 

Kaminsky and Whaley (1998) developed a standardized ramp protocol for assessing the functional cardiorespiratory capacity of symptomatic sedentary, and apparently healthy individuals. For this protocol, the treadmill speed increases gradually every minute. 

The minimum speed 1.0 mph; the maximum speed is 5.8 mph. The treadmill grade also increases gradually every minute. The minimum grade is 0%; the maximum grade is 20%. Every 3 min during this ramp protocol, the work rates (i.e., speed and grade) equal those of the traditional Bruce protocol.  

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