Testing upper limb feasibility in cardiopulmonary exercise

Comparing arm crank ergometer with cycle ergometer for evaluating Exercise capacity.


How can doctors or researchers perform cardiopulmonary exercise testing in people with lower limb injuries or disabilities that prevent them from pedaling a stationary bike? These tests measure how much air we breathe and oxygen we use during Exercise, indicating our maximum oxygen uptake. If lower limbs can’t be used, an upper limb alternative is needed, but there’s no established protocol yet.

Researchers from Osaka Metropolitan University, led by Professor Hisayo Yokoyama and including Specially Appointed Assistant Professor Miwako Deguchi and Specially Appointed Professor Nobuko Hongu, studied if exercise tests using upper limbs are as reliable as those using lower limbs. They examined the relationship between heart rate and oxygen uptake during exercise testing with cycle and arm crank ergometers in 17 male collegiate athletes from rowing and cycling clubs with excellent upper and lower limb function.

Findings revealed that the estimated maximal oxygen uptake was lower when using the arm crank ergometer than the cycle ergometer for both the rowing and cycling teams. 

Dr. Deguchi said, “Exercise testing using arm crank ergometers underestimate cardiopulmonary function, regardless of upper limb training status, and cannot substitute that of cycle ergometers, at least for assessing cardiopulmonary function.”

“To conduct exercise testing with arm crank ergometers in the future to assess cardiopulmonary function, it is necessary to clarify what factors affect the relationship between heart rate and oxygen uptake during Exercise. We intend to use the results obtained in this study as a springboard for further research to expand the applicability of exercise testing using the upper limbs.” He added.

While upper limb exercise testing may be considered an alternative for individuals with lower limb injuries or disabilities, further research is needed to establish its reliability and effectiveness in assessing cardiopulmonary function.

Journal reference:

  1. Miwako Deguchi, Hisayo Yokoyama, et al., Does Exercise Testing with Arm Crank Ergometer Substitute for Cycle Ergometer to Evaluate Exercise Capacity? Applied Sciences. DOI: 10.3390/app132312926.