Normal Pulse After Three Minutes of Working Out

Woman Checking Her Pulse in an Aerobics Class

Back in the day, before the advent of fancy lab tests for V02max, surgeons asked patients with lung disorders to try to walk up five flights of stairs to assess their fitness for the operating theater. Nowadays, you can assess your aerobic fitness similarly by going up and down a single step 72 times in three minutes. Simple charts can give you guidance on whether your pulse falls in the normal range postexercise.

Giving the Test

The three-minute step test is a favorite of health clubs, fitness classes and student health centers, and you can also perform it at home. You need a step or bench 12 inches high and a stopwatch or view of a wall clock. A metronome set at 96 beats per minute is helpful to keep you in the correct rhythm, which entails stepping up with one foot, then up with the other, and then down with each foot in turn, for a total of 24 steps per minute and four beats per step.

Taking Your Pulse

Immediately after completing the step test, take a seat. Within five seconds of completing the test, begin taking your pulse, with your finger lightly against your neck to measure the pulse at the carotid artery -- or have an assistant count your heartbeats while listening on a stethoscope. Take your pulse for a full 60 seconds rather than the common method of multiplying the 10-second result by 6, as the rate of decline of your heartbeat tells your aerobic capacity, and heart rates change quickly during recovery. The faster your heart rate declines, the higher your aerobic capacity.

Normal Pulse

Men whose recovery heart rate hits around 100 to 113, and women whose pulse falls between 110 and 121, score in the “average” range. Males and females in the 18- to 25-year-old range score an average of 101 to 104 and 110 to 116, respectively, while those above age 66 score “average” with 104 to 113 for males and 117 to 121 for females. If you are short, the test may slightly underestimate your aerobic fitness, as mounting the steps is more of a challenge.

Score Results

Young males who record a recovery heart rate of 70 to 78 fall in the excellent range, while senior males at 72 to 86 obtain an “excellent” rating. Young women score excellent at 72 to 83 beats per minute, while senior women can be excellent at 73 to 86. At all age ranges, from young to old, men who score above 130 beats per minute rate as “very poor,” as do women above 140.


If you have any reason to suspect you have heart disease, you can ask instead to have a specialist doctor perform a treadmill step test in his office. If not, record your recovery pulse periodically to track changes in your aerobic fitness. If you are administering a group step test, warm up participants for five minutes with arm swings and the like, and tell those present that they can stop at any time if they become dizzy or nauseous.