Fitness Articles

The 3-Minute Step Test

A DIY Fitness Assessment

483SHARES
Measuring your fitness level regularly is one way to find out if you're making progress. Most fitness centers have trained staff who can evaluate your body composition, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance, but it can be pricey. If you don’t have access to all the toys and tools of your gym, don’t panic. You have everything you need to measure your fitness level in your own house!

The 3-Minute Step Test measures your aerobic (cardiovascular) fitness level based on how quickly your heart rate returns to normal after exercise.

Equipment needed: Stopwatch or clock with a second hand; a friend to help you keep count; a 12-inch bench, box, or step; a metronome (if you don't have one, use the free online version at www.MetronomeOnline.com)

Goal: Step on and off the bench for 3 minutes straight while keeping a consistent pace and then see how quickly your heart rate will come back down.

Execution: This test is based on a 12-inch step, so use one as close to 12 inches as possible, otherwise your results will be skewed. Set the metronome to 96 beats per minute and make sure you can hear the beat. Stand facing the step. When ready to begin, start the clock or stopwatch and march up and down on the step to the metronome beat (up, up, down, down) for 3 consecutive minutes. (You can rest if you need to, but remain standing.) When 3 minutes are up, stop immediately, sit down on the step, and count (or have a friend count) your pulse (use your wrist or neck) for one full minute.

What this measures: This test assesses your fitness level based on how quickly your heart rate recovers after exercise. The fitter you are, the quicker your heart rate will return to normal after exercise.

Scoring: Here are the age-adjusted standards based on guidelines published by YMCA.

Ratings for Men, Based on Age
  18-25 26-35 36-45 46-55 56-65 65+
Excellent 50-76 51-76 49-76 56-82 60-77 59-81
Good 79-84 79-85 80-88 87-93 86-94 87-92
Above Average 88-93 88-94 92-88 95-101 97-100 94-102
Average 95-100 96-102 100-105 103-111 103-109 104-110
Below Average 102-107 104-110 108-113 113-119 111-117 114-118
Poor 111-119 114-121 116-124 121-126 119-128 121-126
Very Poor 124-157 126-161 130-163 131-159 131-154 130-151

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483SHARES

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About The Author

Jason Anderson Jason Anderson
Jason loves to see people realize the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. He is a certified personal trainer and enjoys running races--from 5Ks to 50K ultramarathons. See all of Jason's articles.

Member Comments

  • MESAMESA22
    Did I miss where it said to determine normal? ? - 5/11/2014 2:18:18 PM
  • Good! Thanks for sharing - 5/2/2014 6:25:57 AM
  • I did it using two 6 inch benches in top of each other.
    Unfortunately, my result was: very poor, for my age group. - 3/29/2014 5:27:06 AM
  • I understood what the article said and could easily incorporate it into my fitness program. - 2/2/2014 1:19:40 PM
  • I understood what the article said and could easily incorporate it into my fitness program. - 2/2/2014 1:19:38 PM
  • JAK41262
    This is easy enough to do. Will add it to my routine - 6/10/2013 10:15:44 AM
  • I don't have a 12 inch step either, so I am just using what I have. Should have the almost the same effect showing any improvement, I think. - 5/31/2013 10:35:50 AM
  • Where do you find a 12" step? I don't have anything NEAR that. I had to pile 9 very thick books up to get there - way too unstable for me to do this test. Plus, I'm rather short, so that height seems rather high. Any suggestions? - 5/8/2013 10:35:58 AM
  • INBLACK
    There is no BEFORE HR. The test is exactly correct per the directions.
    1) With a beat of 96 beats per minute you will step up and back down 24 times per minute for 3 minutes.
    - Right foot up, left foot up, right foot down, left foot down.
    2) After 3 minutes sit down and within 5 seconds start counting your heat beats for 60 seconds.

    Your heart rate slows as you recover so while they may be fast as soon as you stop they will slow before the 60 seconds is up.

    If your resting heart rate is 80 then you are out of shape - a fit person has a resting heart rate of 60 or less. - 12/10/2012 11:47:26 PM
  • CASSIDY12
    Loved this test. It was easy to do at home, and showed I'm in excellent cardio health. Thanks SparkPeople! - 10/20/2012 7:38:37 PM
  • It would be great if you posted a sample video of the exercise. I can't understand how to do it right yet. - 8/30/2012 10:42:52 AM
  • Forgot to say that the point of this article is to compare your results to future tests -not to anything in the same test on the same day. I think some people may be getting confused with another HR test that tests actual recovery time. This test is simple -You test your heart rate after that kind of excercise, then your goal will be to be in better shape and have a better test result next time. You work out to get in better shape, then in a week or a month, you do the same test again. If you have worked out enough, you will see that your test results will be better. They might be in the same category (poor etc.), but your heart rate should be a little lower (generally speaking, of course -there are always things that can affect it, but the more you do it over time, you will see the HR continue to get lower). - 8/14/2012 2:58:29 PM
  • Although I agree with those saying that our resting heart rates are all different so a rating of Resting HR + 10 would be excellent and so on, I don't think that anything was missed or unedited in this article. I think this was a very basic and simple test. It is true that those in good shape will end up with a lower heart rate than those who are not in good shape. You will be able to easily see this right after doing the steps. Measuring only right after the excercise will not change the fact that you will see results over time if you are working to get in better shape. For this purpose, there is nothing wrong with this article! Since the test offers a range of heart rates for each level, this should compensate for not taking a before (resting) heart rate. Yes, you can also test again to see how fast recovery actualy is by waiting 30 seconds or so. That is additional testing which can offer more information about your heart. For a basic testing, the steps in this article are fine! - 8/14/2012 2:43:11 PM
  • Apparently I am excellent! This explains why people half my age and half my size can't keep up with me.

    Now if I could only actually lose those last 30 pounds... - 8/5/2012 7:02:53 PM
  • AZURE-SKY
    This test might work for an "average" or tall person, but not a shortie like me. I'm 5'2" - because I'm short, there's no way I can use a 12-inch step without hurting my knees.
    It takes more effort for a shorter person to raise their body that high than it does a taller person, just like it takes more steps for me to cover a mile than my 6'2" husband.

    Not only that, but the test does not take the "before" resting heart rate, so there is nothing to compare it to.

    - 8/5/2012 3:54:07 PM
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