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Cardiovascular Fitness

Exercise 4: Cardiovascular Fitness

This exercise describes three assessments designed to help you estimate the present level of your cardiovascular fitness. The term “cardiovascular” refers to both the heart and blood vessels. Since the health of the respiratory system is so closely linked to that of the blood circulation, fitness of both will be referred to as “cardiorespiratory”.

During your fitness assessment, stop any test immediately if you begin to feel any pain, faintness, or dizziness. If you notice any other disturbing sensations such as headache or inability to get enough air, do not complete the test.


If your heart rate becomes faster during physical activity, that exercise would be described as aerobic. These activities, when performed often enough and at long enough durations, result in increased efficiency of the circulatory and respiratory systems. The noted improvements are described as the training effect. The training effect has occurred if the heart rate is lower for a given type of exercise or if it takes more resistance to achieve the same heart rate.

In order to experience the training effect and improved cardiorespiratory health, the exercise duration should exceed twenty continuous minutes and the heart rate should be within the target heart rate zone.

There are numerous formulae that have been developed to determine an individual’s target heart rate. The range should ensure sufficient stress to result in improvement, yet not exceed what would be safe. The formula that follows is based on age and resting heart rate.

Resting heart rate is a simple way to assess current level of cardiorespiratory fitness. The average resting heart rate for healthy adults is 75, and ranges from 60-100 BPM (beats per minute). Well-conditioned endurance athletes have resting rates in the 30s and individuals with poor fitness would exhibit resting rates that are much higher. Powerful hearts and lungs circulate more oxygen per beat and can maintain the body at rest with fewer beats per minute.

True resting heart rate is a value that stays constant for days, weeks, and longer, unless cardiovascular changes take place. When measuring HR for these exercises, make sure to record it when you are truly at rest. This will be the lowest value that you record.

Use the calculations in Figure 5.1 as a guide to determine your personal target heart rate zone. Your heart rate should be within these limits whenever you participate in aerobic activities. Calculations should be revisited from time to time as resting heart rate will change with advancing age and, more frequently, due to effects of lifestyle changes.

Minimum Maximum

Maximum heart rate in healthy adult: 220 220

Subtract your age -20 -20

200 200

Subtract resting heart rate – 60 – 60

140 140

Multiply by

Lower and upper limit % .70 .85

98 119

Add back resting heart rate +60 +60

Target heart rate zone (BPM) 158 179

Figure 4.1. Target heart rate zone calculations for a 20 year old with a RHR of 60 BPM.

You will be measuring your heart rate by taking your pulse with your fingers. There are

multiple locations on the surface of the body that can be used as pulse sites. The most commonly used arteries are the carotid and radial.

Pulse sites, also known as pressure points, are depicted in Figure 5.2. Pulse is recorded by gently pressing on the arterial wall with fingers.


Figure 4.2. Pulse sites.


1. Sit quietly for 10 minutes and measure your resting heart rate.

2. Jog in place or perform another aerobic exercise until your heart rate reaches the minimum target heart rate 5 beats.

3. Continue to exercise at the same stress level for 3 minutes. Don’t allow your heart rate to drop below the lower target heart rate or exceed the maximum target heart rate 5 beats.

4. Measure your heart rate during the last 15 seconds of exercising.

5. Measure your heart rate at 1-minute intervals until the rate is below 100 bpm. This is your recovery rate. If your recovery rate exceeds 5 minutes, your cardiovascular fitness is considered below average.


1. Step on a step first with one foot and then with the other foot until you are standing with the knees unbent. Then step down with one foot followed by the other foot to return to the starting position.

2. Step at a pace that results in approximately 30 times per minute for a 5-minute period.

3. Sit down and rest. Measure your heart rate 1 minute after exercising. Remain sitting and measure your heart rate at the 2-minute and 3-minute intervals after exercising.

4. Calculate the sum of the 3 heart rate values. Use this formula to calculate a fitness index:

Fitness Index = 30,000

Sum of the Three Heart Rates

Fitness Index Rating
<55 Poor
55 – 64 Low average
65 – 69 Average
70 – 79 High average
80 – 89 Good
90 and above Excellent

Figure 4.3. Harvard step test fitness index.


1. Sit quietly for 10 minutes and measure your resting heart rate.

2. Starting from a sitting position with arms folded across your chest, stand up and sit down at a rapid but comfortable pace. Do this for three minutes. Your legs must be straight before you sit down and you must sit down completely. Do not use a chair with wheels.

3. Measure your heart rate during the last 15 seconds of exercising

4. Sit down and rest. Measure your heart rate at 30 seconds, 1 minute, and 2 minutes after you sit down.

5. Circle your resting, exercise, and 3 post-exercise heart rates in Table 5.1. Record the corresponding values written in bold in the first column of the table.

Resting Exercise 30 Sec 1 Min 2 Min
20 44 80 64 56 56
19 48 84 68 60 60
18 52 88 72 64 64
17 56 92 76 68 68
16 60 96 80 72 72
15 62 100 84 76 76
14 64 104 88 80 80
13 66 108 92 84 84
12 68 112 96 88 88
11 70 116 100 92 92
10 72 120 104 96 96
9 74 124 108 100 100
8 76 128 112 104 104
7 78 132 116 108 108
6 80 136 120 112 112
5 84 140 124 116 116
4 88 144 128 120 120
3 92 148 132 124 124
2 96 152 136 128 128
1 100 156 140 132 132

Table 4.1. Three-minute sit-and-stand fitness rating.

6. Calculate the sum of the values for the 5 heart rates. If the sum is 0 – 35, your cardiovascular fitness is considered to be dangerously poor. Your cardiovascular fitness is average when the sum is 36 – 70. When the sum exceeds 70, your cardiovascular fitness is excellent.

Lab Report

Report the results of all three assessments. These can be done on yourself or any adult subject who volunteers. However, all three assessments should be done for the same individual.

Your report should include (1) calculations for the subject’s target heart rate zone, (2) recorded heart rates as indicated in all charts and tables, (3) verbal (in sentence form) fitness descriptions for all three assessments, and (4) a general discussion of the results.

Are the results consistent among the tests? Can you draw any conclusions based on relationships between fitness and other lifestyle parameters? Is the subject a smoker, overweight, or an active, fit person?

A minimum of two photographs is required . These should depict the general appearance of your subject and the subject engaged in at least one of the fitness assessments. Your HCC Hawk Card or some other form of photo ID needs to be within every image. The ID should be on or near the subject when you take the picture.

The chair used for the sit-and-stand test needs to be sturdy and not upholstered, on casters (wheels) or a folding chair.

Assessments should be completed either on different days or with a minimum of an hour between tests. This is necessary to remove fatigue as a possible explanation for diminished performance.



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