A cycle ergometer is a stationary bicycle that has the ability to directly measure an individual's work output in a controlled environment. They are commonly used in testing because they're less expensive than treadmills and are more portable. The Astrand-Rhyming and YMCA tests are used frequently.
During the YMCA test, the subject cycles at a rate of 50 revolutions per minute (rpm) at a workload of 150 kilogram-force meters per minute. After three minutes, the person's heart rate is palpated. This initial heart rate response determines the workload for the next several stages. The goal is to get two heart rates between 110 beats per minute and 70 percent of the heart rate reserve during two consecutive stages. Heart rate reserve is calculated by subtracting the subject's resting heart rate from her maximum heart rate. The two heart rates and stages are then plotted to predict the subject's maximal exercise capacity.
The Astrand-Rhyming test is a six-minute single-workload test. The workload is based on the subject's sex and fitness status. The subject cycles at a rate of 50 rpm, with heart rates obtained during the 5th and 6th minute of the test. The heart rates are averaged, adjusted for age and used to estimate maximal exercise capacity.
The one drawback of cycle ergometer testing is that leg fatigue tends to impact test results. Many individuals cannot complete the necessary stages to reach the heart rate response that the test administrator has set out to obtain.
Results of successful fitness testing are used to educate people about their fitness levels, implement individualized exercise programs and monitor progress.
- "ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription," 8th edition; Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins; Philadelphia, 2010
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