Using the Cooper Test 12-Minute Run to Check Aerobic Fitness

Young female athlete running on race track
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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 measures the efficiency with which someone can use oxygen while exercising.

This test is still one of the basic fitness tests used by the military. It is also used by 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.

Endurance generally refers 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. Note that some running watches and fitness monitors have a 12-minute fitness test mode.
  • 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 warmup for 10 to 15 minutes 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

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

The easiest way to get your test results (your VO2 max score) and compare yourself with others of your age and gender is with an online 12-minute test results calculator.

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

12-Minute Run Fitness Test Results

Instead of using the calculation and getting your VO2 max, you can use the distance you achieved to find how you rate.

AgeExcellentAbove AverageAverageBelow AveragePoor
Male 20-29over 2800 meters2400-2800 meters2200-2399 meters1600-2199 metersunder 1600 meters
Females 20-29over 2700 meters2200-2700 meters1800-2199 meters1500-1799 metersunder 1500 meters
Males 30-39over 2700 meters2300-2700 meters1900-2299 meters1500-1999 metersunder 1500 meters
Females 30-39over 2500 meters2000-2500 meters1700-1999 meters1400-1699 metersunder 1400 meters
Males 40-49over 2500 meters2100-2500 meters1700-2099 meters1400-1699 metersunder 1400 meters
Females 40-49over 2300 meters1900-2300 meters1500-1899 meters1200-1499 metersunder 1200 meters
Males 50over 2400 meters2000-2400 meters1600-1999 meters1300-1599 metersunder 1300 meters
Females 50over 2200 meters1700-2200 meters1400-1699 meters1100-1399 metersunder 1100 meters
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Article Sources
  • Cooper KH. A Means of Assessing Maximal Oxygen Uptake. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1968. 203:201-204.

  • Mayorga-Vega D, Bocanegra-Parrilla R, Ornelas M, Viciana J. Criterion-Related Validity of the Distance- and Time-Based Walk/Run Field Tests for Estimating Cardiorespiratory Fitness: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Fraidenraich D, ed. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(3):e0151671. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0151671.