Balke Test - treadmill
- aim: the Balke Treadmill Test was developed as a clinical test to determine peak VO2 in cardiac patients, though it can also be used to estimate cardiovascular fitness in athletes.
- equipment required: treadmill, stopwatch, electrocardiograph (optional)
- procedure: (note: there is also the different Balke 15 minute run test) The athlete walks on a treadmill to exhaustion, at a constant walking speed while gradient/slope is increased every one or two minutes. The assistant starts the stopwatch at the beginning of the test and stops it when the subject is unable to continue. There are several modification or variation of the Balke test that are used, with variations in the treadmill speed, time at each level and/or increase in gradient. Here are examples of test protocols that have been used.
- For men the treadmill speed is set at 3.3 mph, with the gradient starting at 0%. After 1 minute it is raised to 2%, then 1% each minute thereafter.
- For women the treadmill speed is set at 3.0 mph, with the gradient starting at 0%, and increased by 2.5% every three minutes.
- walking speed constant at 3 km/hr whilst the grade was increased by 2.5 percent every two minutes.
- results: The test score is the time taken on the test, in minutes. Ideally this should be between 9-15 minutes. The test time can also be converted to an estimated VO2max score using the following formulas where the value "T" is the total time completed (expressed in minutes and fractions of a minute e.g. 9 minutes 15 seconds = 9.25 minutes) (note: this is only applicable if the same protocol is used as when these formula were developed) :
for men: VO2 max = 1.444 (T) + 14.99 [Pollock et al., 1976)
for women: VO2 max = 1.38 (T) + 5.22 [Pollock et al., 1982)
- target population: The Balke test is recommended for cardiac patients since the elevation in workload is moderate and therefore considered safe even for patients with severe left ventricular dysfunction.
- advantages: You can also get a measurement of maximum heart rate by recording heart rate during the test, which can be used in training programs to set workload intensity.
- disadvantages: It takes a relatively long time to set up and conduct this test, compared to some other aerobic tests, and there are high costs involved in terms of equipment and time.
- other comments: Other similar exercise stress test protocols include Astrand, Naughton and Bruce. Note that there is also the field test also developed by Balke: 15 minute run test, and the Balke Step Test.
- caution: This test is a maximal test. If used recreational athletes or people with health problems, injuries or low fitness levels, please have medical assistance on hand.
- Hanson, P. (1984) Clinical Exercise Training. In: Sport Medicine. Ed: Strauss, R. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Company. 13-40.
- Stress Tests - a general description of exercise stress tests. See also the similar Bruce Test.
- Balke 15 minute run test for aerobic fitness and the Balke Step Test
- VO2max test and other tests of aerobic capacity.
- See heart rate measurement methods if heart rate measurement is also required
- Ratings of Perceived Exertion Scale if you want to quantify effort.