Home / Fitness Testing / Harvard Step Test for Cardio Fitness Assessment

Harvard Step Test for Cardio Fitness Assessment

Harvard Step TestThe Harvard Step Test is a very simple to conduct exercise test that can measure an athletes aerobic capacity. More specifically the test provides an indicative measure of  VO2 Max performance levels.

Taken at various points over a sports season, the test can be used to see increases and decreases in an athletes cardiovascular system.

As the name suggests the test was developed at Harvard University in 1943.

The test is known as cardio stress test and can be used to detect cardiovascular disease as well as test for fitness endurance and capacity to recover from strenuous exercise.

The key advantages of using the Harvard test protocol for cardio assessment is that it does not need much equipment to setup. The test is easily carried out in a gym or even at home as long as you have an assistant to help you.

Some of the disadvantages of the tests accuracy are variables such as participant gender, height and weight can vary. With these variables in mind it can be difficult to compare one athletes score accurately with that of another.

The following video demonstrates how to carry out and score the test.

Conducting the Harvard Step Test

In order to conduct the test you will need:

  • a 45 cm high step
  • a body-weight scale
  • a stopwatch
  • a metronome or cadence sound recording
  • a heart rate monitor
  • An assistant to record results

Before commencing the test record the resting heart rate.

Set the metronome to 30 beat per minute.

The athlete should be instructed to step up on one beat and step down on the next beat.

Setting the metronome beat at 30/minute, the athlete has to match this by carrying out 30 steps / minute for a total period of 5 minutes.

As with any difficult exercise, the athlete should warm up before hand.

On the word “GO” the assistant starts the stopwatch and the athlete commences the steps over the 5 minute period, ensuring that they keep the step rhythm with the beat.

On conclusion of the test the athlete should sit on the bench.

One minute after completing the test, the assistant will record the athletes heart rate over a thirty second period.

Two minutes after completing the test, the assistant will record the athletes heart rate over a thirty second period.

Three minutes after completing the test, the assistant will record the athletes heart rate over a thirty second period.

How to Evaluate Your Score

To score the athlete, use the following calculation:

Harvard Step Test Calculation

The following table provides a guide for VO2 Max performance levels:

Harvard Step Test Results

About Mark Wilson