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Holcomb Hathaway, Publishers

Chapter 5 Lab

Queens College Step Test

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A common exercise test used by exercise physiologists is the Queens College Step Test. It is used to measure the cardiorespiratory endurance of an individual by determining maximal oxygen consumption rate (VO2 max ). To put it very generally, VO2max is a good estimation of cardiorespiratory fitness because a higher VO2 indicates that the heart is more efficient at pumping blood. (You can find out more about VO2 max in an exercise physiology text or exercise assessment text.)

This test involves only three minutes of stair stepping. Upon completion of the Queens College Step Test, the subject’s heart rate is recorded—a measurement that is referred to as the recovery heart rate. In theory, individuals’ recovery heart rate will be lower after the Queens College Step Test if they are in better shape (i.e., higher VO2 max), and individuals who exhibit poor fitness levels (i.e., lower VO2 max) will have a higher recovery heart rate after the step test. A higher recovery heart rate usually reflects a greater amount of exercise-induced stress as a result of the same submaximal stair-stepping task for all participants. Overall, the lower the post-exercise recovery heart rate, the higher the predicted VO2max.


  • Bench, stair step, or bleacher step that is 16.25″ (41.3 cm) tall
  • Metronome
  • Stopwatch
  • Heart rate monitor


  1. Have the subject (or group of subjects) warm up by walking briskly or jogging for five minutes prior to the test.
  2. Instruct the subjects to perform three minutes of stepping using a four-step cadence: “up–up–down–down.” Ensure that the subjects are stepping with their entire feet on the bench/step and that the contralateral foot makes complete contact with the bench/step at the top. Encourage the participants to alternate legs, such that the consecutive stepping cycles would be performed as: right leg up, left leg up, right leg down, left leg down ➞right leg up, left leg up, right leg down, left leg down ➞right leg up, and so forth. Each step should be taken with each tick of the metronome, using the following cadences:
    1. Men will maintain a cadence of 24 steps per minute, which is equivalent to 96 beats per minute on a metronome.
    2. Women will complete 22 steps per minute, which is 88 beats per minute on a metronome.
  3. Five seconds after the three-minute Queens College Step Test is complete, measure the subject’s recovery heart rate and record it (in beats per minute).
  4. Use one of the regression equations in the “Equations” section below to predict O2 max.
  5. Compare the estimated O2 max score to the norms listed at http://www.topendsports.com/testing/vo2norms.htm.



O2 max (mL • kg–1 • min–1) = 111.33 – (0.42 x recovery heart rate in beats per minute)


O2 max (mL • kg–1 • min–1) = 65.81 – (0.1847 x recovery heart rate in beats per minute)


r (correlation coefficient) = –0.75

standardized error of prediction = 2.9 (mL • kg–1 • min–1)


1. McArdle, W. D., Katch, F. I., and Katch, V. L. Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance, 6th edition. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007.

2. McArdle, W. D., Katch, F. I., Pechar, G. S., Jacobson, L., and Ruck, S. Reliability and interrelationships between maximal oxygen intake, physical work capacity and step-test scores in college women. Med. Sci. Sports. 4: 182–186, 1972.

Lab adapted from Housh, T., Cramer, J., Weir, J., Beck, T., & Johnson, G. (2009). Physical fitness laboratories on a budget. (pp. 38-41). Scottsdale, AZ: Holcomb Hathaway, Publishers.