Cooper Test: A 12-Minute Run to Check Aerobic Fitness

Try this simple fitness test to measure your aerobic fitness

12-minute run test
test your endurance. Photo (c) Tyler Stableford / Getty Images

The 12-minute run fitness test was developed by Dr. Ken Cooper in 1968 as an easy way to measure aerobic fitness and provide an estimate of VO2 max for military personnel. The Cooper Test, as it's also known, is still used today as a field test for determining aerobic fitness.

Dr. Cooper found that there is a very high correlation between the distance someone can run (or walk) in 12 minutes and their VO2 max value, which measure the efficiency with which someone can use oxygen while exercising.

This test is still one of the basic fitness tests used by the military, as well as many coaches and trainers to determine cardiovascular fitness and track fitness over time. This simple test also allows you to compare your cardiovascular endurance with others of your age and gender.

What is Cardiovascular Endurance?

In sports, cardiovascular endurance refers to an athlete's ability to sustain prolonged exercise for minutes, hours, or even days. Endurance testing is a way to measure the efficiency of an athlete's circulatory system and respiratory system in supplying oxygen to the working muscles and support sustained physical activity.

When we talk about endurance, we generally refer to aerobic endurance. Aerobic exercise requires oxygen to help supply the energy needed for exercise. The objective of endurance training, then, is to develop and improve the body systems that produce and deliver the energy needed to meet the demands of prolonged activity.

How to Perform the 12 Minute Run Test

The Cooper 12 minute run test requires the person being tested to run or walk as far as possible in a 12 minute period. The objective of the test is to measure the maximum distance covered by the individual during the 12 minute period and is usually carried out on a running track by placing cones at various distances to enable measuring of the distance.

A stopwatch is required for ensuring that the individual runs for the correct amount of time.

  • Safety First. This is a strenuous fitness test and it's recommended that you have your physician's clearance before performing this test on your own.
  • Equipment. You'll need a timer to know when 12 minutes are up.
  • Location. This test is designed to be conducted on a track with clearly marked distance. You can perform the test on a treadmill, but be sure to raise the incline to one degree to simulate outdoor running.
  • Warm Up. Perform a short 10 to 15 minute warm up before performing any fitness testing.
  • Run or Walk. When you are warmed up, get going. Run or walk as far as you can in 12 minutes.
  • Record Your Distance. Record the total number of miles or kilometers you traveled in 12 minutes.

Calculate Your 12 Minute Run Test Results

The easiest way to get your test results (your VO2 max score) and compare yourself with others of your age and gender is with this Online 12 Minute Test Results Calculator.

Calculate Your Estimated VO2 Max

To calculate your estimated VO2 Max results (in ml/kg/min) use either of these formulas:

  • In Miles: VO2max = (35.97 x miles) - 11.29.
  • In Kilometers: VO2max = (22.351 x kilometers) - 11.288

    Compare Your 12 minute Run Fitness Test Results

    After your complete the test, you can compare your results to the norms and recommendations for your age and gender with the following table.


    Cooper, K.H. (1968), "A means of assessing maximal oxygen uptake," Journal of the American Medical Association, 203:201-204.

    12 Minute Run Fitness Test Results

    AgeExcellentAbove AverageAverageBelow AveragePoor
    Male 20-29>2800m2400-2800m2200-2399m1600-2199m<1600m
    Females 20-29>2700m2200-2700m1800-2199m1500-1799m<1500m
    Males 30-39>2700m2300-2700m1900-2299m1500-1999m<1500m
    Females 30-39>2500m2000-2500m1700-1999m1400-1699m<1400m
    Males 40-49>2500m2100-2500m1700-2099m1400-1699m<1400m
    Females 40-49>2300m1900-2300m1500-1899m1200-1499m<1200m
    Males 50>2400m2000-2400m1600-1999m1300-1599m<1300m
    Females 50>2200m1700-2200m1400-1699m1100-1399m<1100m