Challenging a Dogma of Exercise Physiology

Adrian Midgley, David J Bentley, Hans Luttikholt, Lars McNaughton, Gregoire P Millet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

120 Citations (Scopus)
275 Downloads (Pure)


A widely cited recommendation is that to elicit valid maximal oxygen uptake (VO(2 max)) values, incremental exercise tests should last between 8 and 12 minutes. However, this recommendation originated from the findings of a single experimental study conducted by Buchfuhrer et al. in 1983. Although this study is an important contribution to scientific knowledge, it should not be viewed as sufficient evidence to support the recommendation for eliciting valid VO(2 max) values. At least eight studies have reported that durations as short as 5 minutes and as long as 26 minutes elicit VO(2 max) values similar to those derived from tests of 8-12 minutes' duration. Two studies reported that the shorter test protocols elicited significantly higher VO(2 max) values in untrained men and women. In three studies that reported significantly higher VO(2 max) values determined during tests of 8-12 minutes than during more prolonged tests, the prolonged tests were associated with maximal treadmill grades of 20-25%, compared with 6-10% in the shorter tests. Therefore, intolerable treadmill grades, rather than the prolonged test duration, may have limited the ability to elicit VO(2 max). In view of the available evidence, test administrators, reviewers and journal editors should not view 8-12 minutes' duration for incremental exercise tests as obligatory for valid VO(2 max) determination. Current evidence suggests that to elicit valid VO(2 max) values, cycle ergometer tests should last between 7 and 26 minutes and treadmill tests between 5 and 26 minutes. This is dependent on the qualification that short tests are preceded by an adequate warm-up and that treadmill grades do not exceed 15%. Current research is too limited to indicate appropriate test duration ranges for discontinuous test protocols, or protocols incorporating high treadmill grades.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-447
JournalSports Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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