harvard step test

Harvard Step Test


The objective of the test is to monitor the development of the athlete’s cardiovascular system. It was developed by Brouha, L GrayBeil, A & Heath C.W. (1943) This assessment predicts the subjects VO2 max level.

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 test requires the subject to step up and down on the gym bench for 5 minutes at a 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 1-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 the Pro Health Analytics Software or use our calculator. Using the three pulse rates (bpm) to estimate the level of 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? :

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
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