Selecting the Step Height
|There are no advantages or disadvantages of the lower or higher step heights in relation to the aerobic capacity score if conducted on the same participant, in similar conditions.|
The Chester Step Test can be conducted using either a 15cm (6”), 20cm (8”), 25cm (10”) or 30cm (12”) Step. The choice of step depends essentially on the age and physical ability of the participant. Aim to select a step height that will enable the participant to comfortably reach at least Level III of the test, giving a minimum of 6 HR values to enter into the CST2 Software Calculator.
Below are some general guidelines for selecting the appropriate step height – but as a health and fitness professional, you are encouraged to use your professional judgement as to which is the most appropriate step height for the participant.
General guidelines for selecting the step height
The Chester Step Test can be conducted using either a 10cm (4”), 15cm (6”), 20cm (8”), 25cm (10”) or 30cm (12”) Step.
30cm Step – is generally suitable for those under 40 years of age who take regular physical exercise and are used to moderately vigorous exertion.
25cm Step – is generally suitable for those over 40 years of age who take regular physical exercise and are used to moderately vigorous exertion.
20cm Step – is generally suitable for those under 40 years of age who take little or no regular physical exercise and for those under-40s who are moderately overweight.
15cm Step – is generally suitable for those over 40 years of age who take little or no regular physical exercise and for those over-40’s who are moderately overweight.
10cm Step – is generally suitable for older/elderly individuals who take little or no regular physical exercise, are overweight or are in clinical rehabilitation scenarios (e,g. cardiopulmonary or orthopaedic).
The reasons for carefully considered selection of the step height are essentially twofold:
- For fitter persons, the lower step height of 15cm will likely be too low to elevate the heart rate to 80%HRMax even at the high stepping rate of Level V.
- For unfit, elderly and overweight persons, the 30cm step will likely be too high and the heart rate may be elevated too quickly even at the very slow first stepping rate. Additionally, the exercise may leave them rather stiff and aching – particularly the following day even after only 2- 4 minutes of stepping up and down.
The issue of step height is essentially one of safety and suitability.
If, for example, you are using the Chester Step Test to help promote physical activity among basically unfit individuals whom you may have targeted, then the 15cm or 20cm step height would be most suitable. If, however, you are testing and monitoring people who are already taking some form of regular vigorous exercise, either at work (e.g. firefighters) or during leisure time, then use the 25cm or 30cm step.
Note for Occupational Groups on Selection of Step Height.
For groups, such as the UK Fire Service, where a specific minimum standard has been set (42mlsO2/kg/min), using the same step height (30cms) for all may be deemed the most appropriate strategy, since all operational firefighters are expected to take regular exercise, be physically fit and well used to vigorous physical exertion, irrespective of their age – unless there is a medical reason.
Please ensure that whichever step height is used, you record the exercise heart rates against the correct step height. The oxygen costs are different at varying step heights: hence the aerobic capacity results will be inaccurate if you use the wrong step height in the CST2 Software Calculator.