Objectives: To study the potential usefulness of a submaximal self-paced step test as a prediction of maximal aerobic capacity (VO2max) in older adults in the primary care setting.
Design: Data were collected during a prospective randomized study of an exercise program.
Setting: Four university family medical clinics in London, Ontario, Canada.
Participants: A random sample of 240 healthy older (> or =65) men (n = 118) and women (n = 122) from four family medical clinics underwent self-paced step testing in the clinic with a family physician (n = 16), and step testing and a maximal exercise treadmill test with measurement of respired gases in an exercise laboratory. Testing was done in random order (clinic/laboratory) separated by 2 weeks and then repeated at 52 weeks, following introduction of an exercise program. Relationships between outcome variables were examined by Pearson correlation coefficients while prediction of VO2max was examined using multivariate regression analysis. Cross-validation with 30 age-matched hypertensive and 40 age-matched post-hip arthroplasty patients was used to test the accuracy of the predictive models.
Measurements: Measured VO2max, predicted VO2max, step test time, step test heart rate, body mass index (BMI), and O2 pulse.
Results: Two hundred women (n = 108) and men (n = 92) completed both the initial and 52-week assessments. Stepping time, heart rate, age, BMI, and O2 pulse were strongly associated with VO2max for both a normal and a fast step pace and were chosen to develop the predictive model. Normal step-pace correlation with VO2max (ml/kg/min) was no different (female 0.93: male 0.91) from fast pace (0.95:0.90) with no difference between clinic and laboratory measurement at baseline or 52 weeks. Cross-validation showed no significant difference from the main group using the predictive model.
Conclusions: The self-paced step test is a safe and simple clinical instrument that strongly and reliably predicts VO2max, is sensitive to change, and is generalizable in the family practice setting among community-dwelling older adults differing in fitness and health status.