Background: Physical activity and symptom questionnaires have been used as surrogates for exercise testing to estimate a patient's functional capacity and to individualize an exercise testing protocol in accordance with exercise testing guidelines. To validate these approaches, they must be compared with measured oxygen uptake (peak VO (2)).
Methods: Before exercise testing was performed, a brief, self-administered questionnaire (Veterans Specific Activity Questionnaire [VSAQ]) was given to 337 patients referred for exercise testing for clinical reasons. The VSAQ was used to estimate exercise tolerance on the basis of symptoms during daily activities to individualize ramp rates on the treadmill so that the test duration would be approximately 10 minutes. Clinical and demographic variables were added to the VSAQ responses in a stepwise regression model to determine their ability to predict both directly measured peak VO (2) and peak metabolic equivalents (METs) predicted from the treadmill workload.
Results: The mean exercise time was 9.6 +/- 3 minutes. Responses to the VSAQ and age were the strongest predictors of both measured and predicted exercise capacity. Small but significant contributions to the explanation of variance in both measured and estimated METs were made by resting heart rate, forced expiratory volume in 1 second expressed as a percentage of normal, exercise capacity predicted for age, and body mass index. The multiple R values from the regression equations for measured and estimated METs were 0.58 and 0.72, respectively.
Conclusions: Estimating a patient's symptoms associated with daily activities along with age are the strongest predictors of a patient's exercise tolerance. The VSAQ, combined with pretest clinical data, predicts the estimated MET value from treadmill speed and grade better than directly measured METs do. When used for estimating a patient's symptom limits to individualize ramp rates on a treadmill, this approach yields an appropriate test duration in accordance with recent exercise testing guidelines.