PT on the Net Research

Preparation for Aerobic Fitness Testing

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in many developed nations such as the United States, Canada and Australia. Cardiovascular disease is very complex with a multitude of factors. However, lifestyle (e.g., diet, smoking and physical inactivity) seems to be the major contributor to this disease. The good news is that lifestyle is the most modifiable risk factor. For the personal trainer, this means getting their clients active. Aerobic exercise is one of the best ways to reduce CVD risk. However, before starting an exercise program, it is important to assess your clients' cardiovascular fitness. And before we begin, we should cover some very important pre-screening forms and appraisals.

A good place to start prior to testing is the gathering of health information. This will help to determine what type of test to use with your clients. A good example would be the Health and Lifestyle Questionnaire. After that, it is important that some level of screening be completed. In this case, I suggest the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire. Depending on the answers to the questionnaires, you may also need to have a Physicians Approval form completed prior to testing.

Once you have completed all of the necessary paper work, you should give these pre-test instructions to your clients two or more days in advance:

Prior to Exercise

Once your clients show up, you should then go through a preappraisal screening, which includes an observation, resting heart rate and resting blood pressure reading. The testing should be cancelled or postponed if the clients:

Resting Heart Rate

Resting Blood Pressure

During Exercise

Once you are underway and performing the test, you should still monitor your clients. During each minute of the test, you should check for the following:

If any of these signs occur, you should immediately terminate the test and begin an active recovery.

Post Exercise

After the clients have finished the exercise test, you should use active recovery as described in the test protocol for at least two to three minutes. After the active recovery, have clients sit and continue to monitor them every one to two minutes for at least four minutes. Signs to look for include:

Before clients can leave the testing area, their heart rate must be less than 100 beats per minute, systolic blood pressure less than 145 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure less than 95 mmHg.

In summary, assessing the aerobic capacity of your clients is an important step in helping them to maintain an active lifestyle. However, it is vital for you to ensure your clients are well informed and properly screened prior to assessing their cardiovascular fitness. In addition, you should closely monitor them during and after exercise to ensure safety.


  1. Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (2003). The Canadian physical Activity, Fitness and Lifestyle Approach (3rd edition). Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. Ottawa, ON.
  2. Exercise Goals and Intent. Personal Training on the Net. December 2004.
  3. Health and Lifestyle Questionnaire. Personal Training on the Net. September 2004.
  4. Heyward, V.H. (2002). Advanced Fitness Assessment and Exercise Prescription (2nd edition). Human Kinetics: Champaign, IL.
  5. Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire. Personal Training on the Net. September 2004.
  6. Physicians Approval. Personal Training on the Net. September 2004.