We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

What is a Step Test?

By Micki Elizabeth
Updated: Feb 27, 2024

A step test is a test of physical fitness specifically meant to measure cardiovascular strength. The test is believed to be derived from the Canadian home fitness test and is now sometimes referred to as the Harvard step test. A variety of similar tests have since been created that can be performed in a doctor’s office with help from a medical professional, in a gym with a fitness specialist, or at home. One needs only a step or another solid surface as well as a method of counting time and tracking steps per minute. Tests usually last three to five minutes or until exhaustion, at which point the pulse is taken to measure fitness level during exercise and track recovery time.

Due to the growing variety of tests, it is important that one first choose the right test for himself and then follow its specific instructions to ensure that results are not skewed. The step test should be challenging, but it should not cause injury or extreme fatigue. Most tests require a step of a specific height; 12 inches (30.5 centimeters) is an average size. Steps can be taken on an actual staircase, equipment like one might use in a step aerobics class, or any sturdy box or surface that will support one’s weight.

Most step tests require that the subject keep up a minimum amount of steps per minute. A metronome may be helpful to stay on this task; online metronomes are usually available for free. The constant beat will also help to maintain a steady pace, which is usually preferred throughout the length of a step test.

Another variable, depending on the type of step test one takes, is the pattern of steps taken. Most call for an up, up, down, down repetition wherein the subject steps up with the right foot followed by the left foot. The right foot then returns to the floor followed by the left foot.

A stopwatch that clearly counts both minutes and seconds may be another useful piece of equipment when performing a step test. The counter could help one to know when the test is complete and aid in obtaining a more accurate heart rate reading at the end of the test. Most instructions will include a chart for measuring physical fitness according to heart rate.

Tracking cardiovascular and physical health is important not only for athletes, but for practically everyone. In many countries, cardiovascular disease kills more people than cancer does. Whether one is concerned, curious, or just wants to make sure that cardiovascular strength is improving, a step test can be an easy way to track physical health.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.