Harvard step test

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Harvard step test
Purposecardiac stress test

The Harvard step test is a type of cardiac stress test for detecting and diagnosing cardiovascular disease. It is also a good measurement of fitness and a person's ability to recover after a strenuous exercise by checking the recovery rate. The test was developed by Lucien Brouha and his associates in 1943.[1]


The person who is taking the test, he/she has to do steps up and down on a platform in a cycle of two seconds. The height of the platform is about 50 cm or 20 inches (usually 16 inches for women). The rate of 30 steps per minute must be sustained for five minutes or until exhaustion. To ensure the right speed, a metronome is used. Exhaustion is the point at which the subject cannot maintain the stepping rate for 15 seconds. The subject immediately sits down on completion of the test, and the heartbeats are counted for 1 to 1.5, 2 to 2.5, and 3 to 3.5 minutes.

The results are written down as time until exhaustion in seconds () and total heartbeats counted (). It is plotted into a simple fitness index equation:

The outcome of the equation is rated as follows:[2]

Rating Fitness index
Excellent > 97
Good 83 - 96
Average 68 - 82
Low average 54 - 67
Poor < 54

Modified versions[edit]

The test was developed at Harvard University in 1943. Several modified versions of the original Harvard step test exist; examples include the Tecumseh step test and the Kasch step test.[3] Another modified version, the Sharkey step test, was developed in the 1970s for use by the United States Forest Service at the University of Montana in Missoula.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brouha L, Health CW, Graybiel A. Step test simple method of measuring physical fitness for hard muscular work in adult men. Rev Canadian Biol, 1943; 2:86
  2. ^ Top End Sports, Description of the Harvard Step Test
  3. ^ Kasch FW, et al. A Step Test for Inducing Maximal Work. J Assoc Phys Ment Rehabil 19, 84-86. May-Jun 1965.