Sport and Health Assessment Centre

Sport and Health Assessment


The Sport and Health Assessment Centre (SHAC) provides fitness testing services for central and northern Alberta general research communities. SHAC researchers provide expertise in the areas of:

  • Physiology
  • Psychology
  • Biomechanics
  • Administration

What we do

SHAC can perform a variety of fitness and health assessments for:

  • the general public
  • local, provincial, national or professional athletic teams, such as the Edmonton Oilers
  • elite amateur athletes and teams

SHAC also provides assistance, such as metabolic testing, to other research units in other faculties at the University of Alberta, and at other universities.

Graduate students in the Faculty are often involved in ongoing projects and may use subjects for research programs from the client population. The data gathered at SHAC helps:

  • establish fitness and health levels for activity, sports and occupations
  • develop sport training and healthy activity programs


Metabolic Assessment
  1. Resting metabolic rate determination, economy
  2. Ventilator threshold
  3. Maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max)

This is the single best test for measuring aerobic fitness.

  • Aerobic fitness is the ability to use oxygen at an efficient rate during muscular work.
  • A high level of aerobic fitness is desirable for performing many activities and sports.
  • The maximal oxygen consumption value (VO2 max) is a measure of the maximal rate at which oxygen can be taken in, transported and used to perform muscular work.
Oxygen consumption (VO2) can be assessed on:
  • treadmill
  • hand crank
  • bike, or rowing ergometer

The test duration is usually 10 - 15 minutes and progresses from a relative easy intensity up to maximal intensity. The data from the test is useful in a number of ways:

  • The VO2 max or VO2 peak score is used to classify the aerobic fitness of the client and can be compared to age-matched Canadian norms, or to specific exercise or sport data.
  • The relative score is expressed per kilogram of body weight and is important for:
    • athletes, such as runners, who must move their body weight against the force of gravity
    • comparing individuals of different body sizes

The absolute (l/min) is important for activities such as cycling or rowing where body weight is supported.

  • The score can be used as a baseline to help evaluate exercise or training programs.
  • Oxygen consumption test can also be used to determine the submaximal exercise parameters such as economy or ventilation threshold (VT).
  • VT is used to indicate your anaerobic threshold which is the intensity of exercise in which there is a shift in the predominate energy supply from aerobic to anaerobic.
  • This can be expressed in l/min and represents the fraction of your maximum oxygen consumption that you can maintain during prolonged endurance exercise.
  • VT has also been shown to be highly related to endurance race performance.
  • The heart rate data can be used to establish individual max heart rate and along with VT precise exercise or training intensity can be prescribed.
Body Composition

1. Underwater weighing

Also termed Hydrostatic weighing, underwater weighing is the most valid and reliable indirect method for determining body composition.
Underwater weighing measures total body volume by determining the mass underwater and then using Archimedes' principle (which states that states that a body immersed in a fluid is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the displaced fluid i.e. liquids and gases) to determine body density.
To achieve this the client is submerged underwater in a chair and the body mass is measured. Underwater weighing provides the following information:
  • estimated percentage of body fat within 2 - 4 per cent
  • comparison to age matched Canadian norms
  • breakdown of body weight into two components: Fat mass and fat free mass or muscle mass
The best application of underwater weighing measurements is its ability to track changes in composition before, during and after initiation of a lifestyle, fitness or training program.

2. Skin folds

Skin fold measurement is the most widely used method for determining body composition.

The best application of skin fold measurements is its ability to track changes in composition and decreases in skin fold thicknesses before, during and after initiation of a lifestyle, fitness or training program.

  • A skin fold indirectly measures the thickness of subcutaneous (fat lying directly under the skin) adipose tissue.
  • By measuring between 3 and 7 sites on the lower and upper body a reasonable estimation of the percentage of body fat can be obtained.
  • Skin folds measurements provide the following information:
    • Estimated percentage body fat within 7 - 10 %
    • Comparisons to aged matched Canadian norms or sport or activity specific population norms
    • Skin fold thicknesses from a variety of sites on the body

3. Anthropometric measurement

Anaerobic Power/Capacity

Wingate Test (computerized cycle anaerobic power testing)

The Wingate test is an all-out effort on a cycle or hand crank ergometer that determines:

  • peak power generated and
  • the capacity to resist fatigue

The test lasts between 30 - 90 seconds depending on the nature of the sport. Hockey players, figure skaters, wheelchair athletes, track cyclists and downhill skiers wanting to establish and train their ability to generate power have routinely used the test.

The U of A has developed a special protocol used for hockey players that precisely simulates a shift in hockey and is the current test used by the Edmonton Oilers of the NHL.

Wingate testing provides the following information:

  • Peak Power - absolute (Watts) and relative (Watts/kg)
  • Mean Power - absolute (Watts) and relative (Watts/kg)
  • Fatigue Index - % power drop off from peak
Muscular Strength, Power and Endurance

There is a multitude of muscular strength, endurance and flexibility testing that can be done depending on the health, occupation or sport activities. The most common include:

  • 1 - 8 repetition maximum testing: This is performed using free weights and resistance-training machines commonly found in fitness centres. The information is used to develop a resistance-training program.
  • Back health testing: These tests include flexibility, and endurance tests of the core muscle groups and are used for health determination and occupation readiness. Information gained is used evaluate back health and to develop activities that will prevent or manage lower back problems.
  • Cybex testing: The Cybex is an isokinetic dynamometer that assesses strength, endurance, and power of muscle groups.
    • The speed of limb movement is kept at a constant predetermined speed.
    • The Cybex can be configured to test the muscle groups around any joint.
    • The information gained is most useful to determine muscle imbalances due to improper training or previous joint or muscle injury.
Exercise Ergometry Testing

This includes any type of exercise ergometry testing such as:

  • cycle, rowing, arm crank
  • biochemical analysis of lactate, glucose, blood cell counts, etc.
  • training program design, such as strength, endurance and power

Contact Us

Director - Alex Game, MSc, PFLC

Costs vary. Please contact Alex Game for more information.