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Logo of brjsmedBritish Journal of Sports MedicineVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
Br J Sports Med. 2004 April; 38(2): 197–205.
PMCID: PMC1724781

Reliability and validity of measures taken during the Chester step test to predict aerobic power and to prescribe aerobic exercise


Objectives: To evaluate the reliability and validity of measures taken during the Chester step test (CST) used to predict VO2max and prescribe subsequent exercise.

Methods: The CST was performed twice on separate days by 7 males and 6 females aged 22.4 (SD 4.6) years. Heart rate (HR), ratings of perceived exertion (RPE), and oxygen uptake (VO2) were measured at each stage of the CST.

Results: RPE, HR, and actual VO2 were the same at each stage for both trials but each of these measures was significantly different between CST stages (p<0.0005). Intertrial bias ±95% limits of agreement (95% LoA) of HR reached acceptable limits at CST stage IV (-2±10 beats/min) and for RPE at stages III (0.2±1.4) and IV (0.5±1.9). Age estimated HRmax significantly overestimated actual HRmax of 5 beats/min (p = 0.016) and the 95% LoA showed that this error could range from an underestimation of 17 beats/min to an overestimation of 7 beats/min. Estimated versus actual VO2 at each CST stage during both trials showed errors ranging between 11% and 19%. Trial 1 underestimated actual VO2max by 2.8 ml/kg/min (p = 0.006) and trial 2 by 1.6 ml/kg/min (not significant). The intertrial agreement in predicted VO2max was relatively narrow with a bias ±95% LoA of -0.8±3.7 ml/kg/min. The RPE and %HRmax (actual) correlation improved with a second trial. At all CST stages in trial 2 RPE:%HRmax coefficients were significant with the highest correlations at CST stages III (r = 0.78) and IV (r = 0.84).

Conclusion: CST VO2max prediction validity is questioned but the CST is reliable on a test-retest basis. VO2max prediction error is due more to VO2 estimation error at each CST stage compared with error in age estimated HRmax. The HR/RPE relation at >50% VO2max reliably represents the recommended intensity for developing cardiorespiratory fitness, but only when a practice trial of the CST is first performed.

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