Posted by: Dr. Tyrone A. Holmes | November 20, 2008

Determine Your Maximum Heart Rate with the Step Test

      Another way to determine your maximum heart rate (MHR) is through a Step Test.  Like the 1 mile Walking Test I described in my previous post, the Step Test is a SubMax protocol that allows you to accurately estimate your MHR without severely straining yourself.  It also allows you to perform the estimate indoors.  You can use the stairs in your home to perform the test.  It’s a simple process.  First, warm up for at least 10 to 15 minutes.  You should be sweating slightly and have an elevated heart rate before you begin the test. Then, using the bottom step in your home, you are going to step up and down in the following sequence: right foot up, left foot up, right foot down, left foot down.  That’s one cycle.  Your goal is to do 20 cycles per minute for 3 minutes.  Use your heart rate monitor to determine your average heart rate for the last minute only.

As with the 1 Minute Walking Test, you need to determine whether you are in Poor, Average or Excellent shape.  Consider yourself in excellent shape if you walk or run at least five times a week.  You are in average shape if you participate in aerobic exercise 3 times a week and Poor shape if you never exercise.  To determine your MHR, add the average heart rate from the last minute of your step test to the number that best matches your physical condition:

  • Poor (+55)
  • Average (+65)
  • Excellent (+75)

For example, if you are in Poor physical condition and your average heart rate during the last minute of your step test was 110, your MHR is 185.  As with the 1 Mile Walking Test, while not perfect, this should be a fairly close estimate.

NEXT POST – November 24, 2008

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