Cardio Check-up

Here’s a super easy do-it-yourself stress test that you can use to give yourself a quick check-up on your cardiovascular health.  One of the best measures of cardiovascular health is to check how quickly your heart recovers back to normal after exercise.  Using this simple test, you’ll know in less than 5 minutes where you stand.  Or at least you’ll have a better idea of where you stand!  Here’s what to do.

1) While resting, count your pulse on your wrist or neck for 15 seconds.  Multiply by 4 to get your resting heart rate.  Write it down!

2) Find a 12-14″ step and make sure you can see a clock from this position.  Step up onto it with your right foot, then your left.  Step down with your right, then your left.  Maintain this stepping up and down at a pretty rapid but consistent pace.  Think walking fast up steps but not running.  Continue for 3 minutes total.

3) Check your heart rate again for the 15 seconds immediately following exercise.  Multiply by 4 and write it down.  Ideally, this should be close to 80% of your max heart rate.

4) Sit down on the step and rest for 2 minutes.  Check your heart rate one more time.

5) Subtract your recovery heart rate from your heart rate following exercise.  You want as big a gap as possible here, because the more fit you are, the quicker your heart will return to resting rate.

The results will be a little skewed if you’re using something different than a 12-14″ step, but it’s still better than nothing.  And certainly comparing your own results against yourself over time is the best measure of improved cardiovascular fitness, even if your results are a little skewed off of the normal test.

As a case study, here’s how I scored:

1) Resting heart rate: 72 bpm (beats per minute)

2) After 3 minutes of stepping exercise: 164 bpm

3) Recovering heart rate after 2 minutes of rest after exercise: 96 bpm

4) Score = 164 – 96, or 68.  Admittedly I was just using a regular set of stairs in my house.  Since each step is 9″, I opted to alternate between stepping up one step at a time with stepping up two steps at a time to attempt to reach an average step height between 12 and 14″.  Super scientific, eh?

See, it’s that easy to check where you are.  No fasting, no blood drawing, no running for an hour on the treadmill.  Take just 5 minutes to yourself today and you’ll be glad you did!


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