Fitness Articles

The 3-Minute Step Test

A DIY Fitness Assessment

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

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

Continued ›
Page 1 of 3   Next Page ›

Advertisement -- Learn more about ads on this site.

More Great Features

Connect With SparkPeople

Subscribe to our Newsletters

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

    I agree with the women, their chart is covered by an AD. If you pull up the "print" option under the "MORE" button, it will give you a "pop-up" window that you can see the chart without the ad. .... as a side note, this article seems incomplete. - 2/21/2015 10:33:29 AM
  • The ads cover the chart for women. How are we supposed to read it? - 1/30/2015 8:58:39 PM
  • The ads cover the chart for women. How are we supposed to read it? - 1/30/2015 8:58:27 PM
    It says the test is to see how fast your heart rate returns to normal but it only has you measure your heart rate after the exercise, before it returns to normal, and it does not have you chart your normal heart rate. Very poor instructions/expl
    anations. - 1/29/2015 7:24:52 PM
  • This is an informative article. The chart for women, however, is blocked by advertising (I'm viewing this on my desktop computer).

    Would be so much more useful/helpful if the information was viewable.
    - 1/29/2015 10:27:39 AM
  • Another test where the chart for women in my age range is blocked by the How Fit Are You? link. - 9/28/2014 10:53:53 AM
  • I can tell by how easier it is to recover after walking that my fittiness level is improving. I know I need to up the pressure when I get to the point I am not breathing hard after walking. - 9/2/2014 3:16:13 PM
    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

x Lose 10 Pounds by May 8! Get a FREE Personalized Plan