A more reliable way of gauging your fitness is to measure your hearts ability to recover from exertion. The Chester Step Test is a sub maximal test which requires you to step onto, and off a 30 cm / 12″ step (a standard gym bench), at a rate set by a metronome disc, sufficient to elicit a heart rate of around 80% max heart rate at a moderate level of exertion. It is a multi-staged test so every 2 minutes there is an increase in the rate of the step.
Exercise heart rates are then plotted on a graph and an aerobic capacity and fitness rating may be calculated.
Procedure for the Test
If you are doing your step test as part of your medical examination or for any other part of your recruitment process for the fire and rescue service, then this will generally be the procedure that you will go through:
- Both your maximum heart rate (220 – Age) and your 80% of maximum heart rate. These values will be entered in the appropriate box on the Chester Step Test Record sheet and two horizontal lines will be drawn on the graph to represent these values
- A heart rate monitor will be attached to you, and you will be told what will be required of you during the test, followed by a brief demonstration of the initial stepping rate (15 steps /min)
- When the CD is turned on you will be encouraged to commence stepping at the appropriate stepping rate, and will continue to step for the next 2 minutes
- After the first 2 minutes of stepping (stage 1) your heart rate will be recorded during the last few seconds of stepping. (You may also be asked to indicate your rating of perceived exertion (RPE) from a chart numbered 6 to 20, low scores being very, very light exertion and high scores being very, very hard exertion
- Providing your heart rate is below 80% of your maximum heart rate and the RPE is below 14, you’ll be asked to continue stepping at the slightly faster rate in stage 2 (20 steps/min)
- After another 2 minutes of stepping your heart rate will be recorded during the last few seconds of stage 2, and again you may be asked to indicate your RPE from the chart provided
- Providing your heart rate is below 80% of your maximum heart rate and the RPE is below 14, you’ll be asked to continue stepping at the slightly faster rate is stage 3 (25 steps/min)
- The test will continue until either you report an RPE greater than 14 and/or an exercise heart rate greater than 80% of your maximum heart rate (stage 4 = 30 steps/min, stage 5 = 35 steps/min)
Your results will then be plotted and a decision will be made by the Occupational Doctor as to whether or not you pass the criteria for the step test.