Queens College Step Test for Estimated VO2max

Calculator created by Jeff Burmann, NSCA-CPT. Questions? Email Jeff

Required Equipment

  1. Stopwatch
  2. Metronome
  3. 16.25 inch step (exact height for accuracy)

Test Procedures

  1. Set a metronome to 88bpm for women and 96 bpm for men
  2. Step up and down to the beat of the metronome for 3 minutes straight
    • Exact with metronome, step Up left, Up right, Down left, Down right
    • This would be a repetition count of 1 for the whole cycle, up – up – down – down
    • For men at 96 bpm, you should complete 24 reps or cycles
    • Females complete 22 cycles at 88bpm
    • Switching leading foot is permitted but don’t skip a beat
  3. After finishing and within 5 seconds, count your pulse in the standing position for 15 seconds and multiply that number by 4 to get estimated 60s HR
  4. Plug in data to our calculator and get your estimated VO2max


Formula from ACSM’s Resources for the Personal Trainer, 3rd Edition 2010.


What is VO2max

VO2max is the maximum amount of oxygen you can take in and utilize. Not all air taken in is used by the body. The more cardiovascularly conditioned you are, the higher your VO2max will be, thus the more oxygen you’ll be able to utilize with each breath. Finding VO2max is among the best measures of cardiorespiratory fitness. Each liter of oxygen utilized burns about 5 kcals so the higher the VO2max, the more energy you will require to exercise meaning you can burn more calories and get better more intense workouts. Striving for a higher VO2max is one of the best ways to improve all cardiovascular functions in the body which will improve your overall fitness level.

VO2max and HRR

HRR (Heart Rate Reserve) is a helpful number needed to understand how hard you’re working during exercise. Since you cannot know how much oxygen you’re using up during exercise, and you cannot exercise at 100% all the time like the VO2max, using a pulse count is still best in a typical exercise routine. Finding your heart rate bpm and knowing various heart rate reserve percentages, you can know approximately how much oxygen your consuming because exercise intensities from VO2max to HRR are very closely related. 50% VO2max is equal to about 50% HRR, 75% VO2max = 75% HRR, etc.

VO2max vs. VO2R

For greater precision over VO2max / HRR relation, use the following equation to get target VO2 or VO2 reserve. VO2R = [(Intensity %) x (VO2max – VO2rest)] + VO2rest.

VO2max and METs

At rest, oxygen utilization is about 3.5mL ⋅ kg-1 ⋅ min-1 and is known as a “Metabolic Equivalent of Tasks” or MET. 1 MET is resting, so at 5 METs, the body is working 5x harder than at rest. 1 Met is also known as VO2rest. Normal healthy individuals typically have a VO2max of 25-80 or 7.1 to 22.9 METS.

For another perspective, here is a list of estimated METs for various activities.

  • 1 MET = lying in bed or sitting, watching T.V., doing nothing.
  • 3 METs = resistance training with light to moderate effort, or walking 2.5 mph
  • 5 METs = walking 4 mph on level surface, or low impact aerobic dancing
  • 6 METs = vigorous resistance training
  • 8 METs = playing singles tennis, or circuit training including cardio stations with limited rest
  • 10 METs = running 6mph, or swimming vigorously
  • 16 METs = running 10 mph, or cycling outdoors at >20 mph