The following post is the first of a three part series which will enable you to test your cardiovascular fitness, maximal strength and flexibility. Whether you are a beginner who needs a starting point for reference, or a more advanced exerciser looking to improve your averages, these articles will explain exactly how to measure your overall fitness levels.
Firstly, this post will cover how to measure your cardiovascular fitness by testing your VO² max. Cardiorespiratory fitness is defined as the ability to perform compound exercises using large muscle groups for prolonged periods, at a moderate to high intensity.
VO² max is considered the most valid measure of cardiorespiratory fitness. It measures the capacity of the heart, lungs and blood to transport oxygen to the working muscles, as well as how well the muscles utilise oxygen during exercise.
There are a number of tests that you can perform to test the health of your heart with very little equipment other than a stopwatch. Considering that your VO² max is your body’s maximal ability to utilise oxygen to perform work, it is very difficult – and unsafe – to reach that level. The following are therefore sub-maximal tests suitable for all levels.
The Step Test: You will need a step with a height of 12 to 18 inches. Step up and down on the step, one foot after the other, for three consecutive minutes. Set a metronome to 96 beats per minute, allowing you to complete 24 steps per minute (you can access a free metronome at http://www.metronomeonline.com/ ). Once three minutes have passed, sit down and immediately take your pulse for the next 60 seconds to monitor recovery. The faster your recovery time, the stronger and fitter your heart is. Use the following tables from the YMCA to judge your score:
Men, based on age:
Women, based on age:
The Rockport Walk Test: This test is most suitable for beginners who are unable to jog or run. After a short warm up, walk one mile as fast as possible on a treadmill or flat terrain. Measure your heart rate as soon as the mile is complete, and compare it to the standard chart below. You can then calculate your VO₂ max by using the following formula:
VO₂ Max = 132.853 – 0.0769W – 0.3877A + 6.315G – 3.2649T – 0.1565H
In the formula, W represents weight in pounds, A is your age your age in years, G is 0 for females and 1 for males, T is your time in minutes and H is your heart rate in beats per minute.
For example, Annie – who is 30 years old and weighs 160 pounds – completes the mile in 13 minutes and 5 seconds at a heart rate of 85 beats per minute. The calculation is as follows:
Annie’s V0₂ max = 132.853 – (0.0769×160) – (0.3877 x 30) + (6.315 x 0) – (3.2649xMINUTES) – (0.1565 x 85) = 95.3434 ml/kg/min
The Astrand Treadmill Test: You will run as long as you possibly can on a treadmill while increasing the incline. First warm up for 10 minutes with a brisk-paced walk, and then set the treadmill to a speed of 5 miles (8km) per hour at a 0% incline. After three minutes, increase the incline to 2.5%. Every two minutes thereafter increase the incline by 2.5% until you can no longer perform the test. You can then calculate your VO₂ max as follow, where time is in minutes:
V0₂ max = (Time x 1.444) + 14.99
For example, John had to stop the test after 13 minutes and 15 seconds.
John’s V0₂ max = (13.25 x 1.444) + 14.99 = 34.123mls/kg/min
The Cooper Test: After warming up for five to 10 minutes, you must run, jog or walk as far as you can in 12 minutes. This is more of an advanced test for experienced exercisers.
Use the following table, based on age and metres, to measure your VO₂ max. The figures are for males – female distances are approximately 10 per cent less:
Please note that you should warm up with some brisk walking and gentle stretching for five to 10 minutes before attempting any of these tests.
To improve your fitness, start by walking on a flat terrain and work your way up to incline walking or jogging. Aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes per day. Once a month repeat the test to see if your results have improved.