Cartwright Fitness

Close-up of a person standing on a wooden box wearing blue Nike sneakers inside a gym, performing the Harvard Step Test, with another person visible in the background.

Harvard Step Test

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Harvard step test

The objective of the harvard step test is to monitor the development of the athlete’s cardiovascular system. Harvard step test step test was developed by brouha et al 1943 This assessment predicts the subjects VO2 max level of physical fitness.

Level of intensity: Up to maximal for those who are unfit.

Level of supervision: Intermediate

Pre Test Conditions

  1. Ensure that there are no medical contraindications that would prevent moderately vigorous exercise. 
  2. Ensure that the subject is ready for exercise and has not eaten, smoked or drink tea or coffee for at least 2 hours before the test.
  3. Ensure that the subject is not recovering from illness or has a cold or is taking any medication that may affect heart rate (Beta Blockers)
  4. The subject should be wearing loose-fitting comfortable clothing. 
  5. Well ventilated room with a temperature between 18C – 20C (60F-80F

Subjects should fill in a PARQ physical readiness questionnaire and or a content to exercise form. If the subject answers yes to any of the questions, vigorous exercise testing should be postponed. Medical clearance may be necessary. 

Equipment Required

The Harvard Step Test requires minimal equipment, this includes:

Test Procedure 

The test requires the subject to step up and down on the gym bench for five minutes. To do this the person must maintain the stepping rate of 30 steps per minute. A step up is once complete step cycle which is stepping onto and off the step which Is up up, down down. 

The subject should step up with one foot, then the other, then step down with one foot followed by the other. The subject should try to maintain a steady four-beat cycle which is easy to maintain if you say up up down down. Go at a steady and constant pace. Once this is completed the subjects heart rate is measured at one minute intervals as below.

  • Measure the HR, 1 minute after finishing the test (Pulse 1)
  • Measure the HR, 2 minutes after finishing the test (Pulse 2)
  • Measure the HR, 3 minutes after finishing the test (Pulse 3)

Harvard Step Test Calculator

Enter the results into this Harvard Step Test Calculator. Using the three pulse rates (bpm) to estimate the level of aerobic fitness can be determined as follows.

Result = 30000 / (pulse1 + pulse2 + pulse3) 

Gender :
Pulse 1 (BPM) :
Pulse 2 (BPM) :
Pulse 3 (BPM) :
Points :
How Fit Are You? :

Fitness Index Results Table

Result Male Female
Excellent >90 >86
Above Average 80 - 90 76 -86
Average 65 - 79.9 61 - 75.9
Below Average 55 - 64.9 50 - 60.9
Poor <55 <50

developed by brouha et al

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