Queen’s College Step Test Calculator
for Estimated VO2 Max

Administer the Queen’s College Step Test and calculate your estimated VO2 max based on the results.

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

Required Equipment

  • Stopwatch
  • Metronome
  • 16.25 inch step (Approx. Original Step + 6 risers per side)

Test Procedures

1. Set a metronome

  • Men: 96 bpm

Metronome set for 96 BPM

  • Women: 88 bpm

Metronome set for 88 BPM

2. Step up and down to the beat of the metronome for three 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

4. After finishing and within 5 seconds, count your pulse in the standing position for 15 seconds. Multiply the pulse ×4 to get estimated HR

5. Plug in data to our calculator and get your estimated VO2 max


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

What is VO2 Max?

VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen you can take in and utilize. Not all the air you breathe in is actually used by the body. The more cardiovascularly conditioned you are, the more oxygen you can actually utilize with each breath, and the higher your VO2 max will be. Finding VO2 max is among the best measures of cardiorespiratory fitness. Each liter of oxygen utilized burns about 5 kcals, so the higher the VO2 max, the more calories you can burn during exercise. You’ll also be able to work at a higher intensity and do more work during exercise. Improving VO2 max is one of the best ways to improve all cardiovascular functions in the body which will improve your overall fitness level.

VO2 Max and Heart Rate Reserve

Heart Rate Reserve (HRR) is the difference between your maximal heart rate, and the heart rate you are currently working at. It is the most common way to measure intensity during aerobic exercise. Measuring heart rate is far more practical than measuring gas exchange during exercise, but it is very easy to estimate percentage of VO2 max based on percentage of HRR; for example, 50% VO2 max is equal to about 50% HRR, 75% VO2 max = 75% HRR, etc.

VO2 Max vs. VO2 Reserve

VO2 Reserve (VO2R) is the difference between VO2 max and the VO2 intensity you’re currently working at. You can use the following equation to find target VO2 or VO2 R.
VO2R = [(Intensity %) x (VO2 max – VO2 rest)] + VO2rest.

VO2 Max 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. At rest, you are working at 1 MET. At 5 METs, you are working 5x harder than at rest. 1 Met is also known as VO2rest. Normal healthy individuals typically have a VO2max of 25-80 which is 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