Advantages & Disadvantages of the Cardiorespiratory Endurance Test
Cardiorespiratory endurance is the ability to perform large-muscle, dynamic, moderate- to high-intensity exercise for a prolonged period of time, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. High levels of cardiorespiratory fitness are associated with lower risk of disease. Cardiorespiratory endurance can be tested a number of ways, and each has advantages and disadvantages.
Submax Versus Max Testing
Most endurance tests are submaximal tests. Maximal tests require specialized equipment that measures how much oxygen you use and the amount of carbon dioxide you exhale while monitoring heart rate and blood pressure. It is complicated, requires trained professionals, and sometimes needs a physician present. It requires all-out effort from you. A submax test can give a good representation of your current fitness level without all of the fancy equipment and with a lower risk to your body.
A treadmill is one tool that is used for testing endurance, and it can help predict your fitness level. They are common to fitness centers, and the tests are relatively easy to administer. The tests on the treadmill are either walking or running tests, so there is no special training for participants. However, treadmills can be costly, so unless you are at a gym, you may not have access to one. Also, you need to consider your limitations. If you are obese or have musculoskeletal issues, walking or running for an extended period of time may not be an option.
Cycle Ergometer Tests
Cycling may be a better choice for those participants who have joint pain or other health issues. No special training is required, and the activity is non-weight bearing. It is also less expensive than a treadmill. However, the protocols are a little more in-depth, so you need an experienced person to administer the test. Also, if you are obese, you must make sure that the bike can hold your weight.
Field tests are cheap and easy to administer, and more than one person at a time can be tested. Often all you need is a stopwatch and a track, or another premeasured outdoor space. These tests are administered walking or running, so you should be able to do one of these activities. In a field test, you are required to cover a given distance in the shortest amount of time possible. You might be tempted to push yourself to near max effort, so use caution. Field tests are not as accurate as submax protocols, but they can provide an overview of health and fitness status.
- ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription; American College of Sports Medicine
- IDEA Health & Fitness Association: Cardiorespiratory Fitness Testing
- IDEA Health & Fitness Association: Cardiorespiratory Fitness Testing, Part II
Bethany Kochan began writing professionally in 2010. She has worked in fitness as a group instructor, personal trainer and fitness specialist since 1998. Kochan graduated in 2000 from Southern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science. She is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer, Medical Exercise Specialist and certified YogaFit instructor.