The exertion test : what is and how does it works | Health on the saddle
The exertion test

The exertion test


A test made up of a series of examinations which gauges cardio-vascular risks for anyone doing endurance sports like cycling. Over the age of 40, it is best to repeat this test at least every two years to make sure that everything is “in working order”.


It can reveal undetected heart disease or simply show us which performance levels we should not be exceeding: we are talking about an exertion test and when it comes to competitive sports, a medical certificate testifying to suitable fitness levels must be obtained. Even the granfondo lovers know about it because it is required to take part in the racing events, but in any case all sportspeople over the age of 40 should have one every two years. It is a way to lower health risks and stay safe as it shows you where your limits are, if there are any.


What does the exertion test involve

This useful check-up can be booked at a publicly or privately run Sports Medicine Centre or even at an accredited sports doctor. To get to the heart of the matter (literally speaking), the most important part of the test is the cycle ergometer test. This is an exercise bike wired with sensors tracking the heartbeat and, substantially, it measures an individual’s aerobic capacity.

The whole thing lasts for about 20 minutes and the exertion levels are gradually raised every 2 minutes with a real-time analysis by the physician who is looking at heart rate and blood pressure.

The test comes to an end when we cannot withstand the strain any longer, or when the cycle ergometer tells us that we cannot keep up a constant speed of 60 rotations per minute. It really takes a toll.

Here are some tips:

come to do the test wearing comfortable clothing.

Do not overdo it with cigarettes and alcohol the night before otherwise the test results might be distorted. Pretend it is the eve of a challenging race.

Have a light breakfast.

If possible, ride to the health centre on your bike so you will have warmed up by the time you get there.

Bring a bottle of water with you because the test is often carried out in a poky little room and you will sweat a lot.


What about the values?

The most important values that the test looks at are the VO2Max and the MAS.

The first value is an indication of our cardiorespiratory fitness calculated by recording our peak oxygen consumption per minute for each kilogramme of body weight and when the system is fully taxed.

In short, it is our human “engine size”. This measure of oxygen consumption is vital for endurance-sport performance because 25% of the energy that our body makes from the combustion process goes straight to our feet in the form of pedalling power.

At an amateur level, an excellent value will be around 50/60 ml/kg/min although it will improve with training and increased fitness.

On the other hand, the MAS (Maximum Aerobic Speed) is the speed at which we reach the VO2Max threshold of peak oxygen uptake. Beyond this, our muscles start to secrete lactic acid.

Obviously, the outcome of the test provides us with precious data and enables us to scientifically schedule our training session around our weak areas.




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