Conducting maximal and submaximal endurance exercise testing to measure physiological and biological responses to acute exercise in humans

Courtney M. Wheatley, Triven Kannan, Svetlana Bornschlegl, Chul Ho Kim, Dennis A. Gastineau, Allan B. Dietz, Bruce D. Johnson, Michael P. Gustafson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Regular physical activity has a positive effect on human health, but the mechanisms controlling these effects remain unclear. The physiologic and biologic responses to acute exercise are predominantly influenced by the duration and intensity of the exercise regimen. As exercise is increasingly thought of as a therapeutic treatment and/or diagnostic tool, it is important that standardizable methodologies be utilized to understand the variability and to increase the reproducibility of exercise outputs and measurements of responses to such regimens. To that end, we describe two different cycling exercise regimens that yield different physiologic outputs. In a maximal exercise test, exercise intensity is continually increased with a greater workload resulting in an increasing cardiopulmonary and metabolic response (heart rate, stroke volume, ventilation, oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production). In contrast, during endurance exercise tests, the demand is increased from that at rest, but is raised to a fixed submaximal exercise intensity resulting in a cardiopulmonary and metabolic response that typically plateaus. Along with the protocols, we provide suggestions on measuring physiologic outputs that include, but are not limited to, heart rate, slow and forced vital capacity, gas exchange metrics, and blood pressure to enable the comparison of exercise outputs between studies. Biospecimens can then be sampled to assess cellular, protein, and/or gene expression responses. Overall, this approach can be easily adapted into both short-and long-term effects of two distinct exercise regimens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere58417
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number140
StatePublished - 2018


  • Exercise testing
  • Gas exchange
  • Issue 140
  • Maximal oxygen consumption
  • Medicine
  • Physiological responses
  • Submaximal endurance exercise
  • VO testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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