A Call to Action Towards an Evidence-Based Approach to using Verbal Encouragement during Maximal Exercise Testing

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By definition, maximal exercise testing inherently requires participants to give a maximal effort. This is an important practical issue as submaximal efforts can produce invalid test results. Verbal encouragement is commonly used to motivate participants to maintain or increase effort investment during maximal exercise testing. Accordingly, studies have reported significant increases in time to exhaustion of between 8% and 18% during VO 2max and multistage shuttle run tests, and a significant 30·5 m mean increase in 6-min walk test distance. Significant improvements during shorter tests, such as the Wingate and 2-min walk tests, have not been observed however. Although participants typically perceive verbal encouragement positively during maximal exercise testing, around one-third have neutral or negative perceptions. Despite the ubiquity and importance of verbal encouragement during maximal exercise testing, surprisingly little research has investigated the characteristics of effective encouragement with respect to its content, timing and frequency. The only randomized controlled trial to investigate one of these issues observed that verbal encouragement delivered every 20 s increased time to exhaustion during VO 2 max testing, but not every 60 or 180 s. Of particular concern is that several exercise testing guidelines have incorporated specific guidelines for the use of verbal encouragement, but not provided any theoretical or empirical justification, presumably because of the limited research to inform practice. Recent empirical research does provide some important insight into participant preference for the content and timing of verbal encouragement during maximal exercise testing; however, much more research is clearly required to establish comprehensive evidence-based guidelines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-553
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Physiology and Functional Imaging
Issue number4
Early online date24 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2017


  • exercise tolerance
  • fatigue
  • maximal oxygen uptake
  • motivation
  • physical exertion


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