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Fitness Testing: The 12 Minute Cooper Test

12-Minute Test

Dr. Cooper (right) and a fellow researcher conduct aerobic tests on a U.S. Air Force serviceman.

Just as the definition of fitness has evolved, so have the ways in which fitness is measured. You may know that Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, coined the word aerobics, but did you know that years ago he also developed a timed test to evaluate fitness?

In the 1960s Dr. Cooper worked with nearly 27,000 men and women in the military to gather research on the impact of physical fitness on the body. He worked with NASA to develop the first preflight conditioning and in-flight antideconditioning program for astronauts. He conducted field testing, bed studies to simulate weightlessness, oxygen consumption tests on treadmills, and more. All of the information culminated in the creation of the 1.5-mile and 12-minute-mile tests to measure aerobic capacity.

During the 12-minute mile test, a person runs, jogs or walks as fast as they can in 12 minutes. Their results are based on how much distance covered in that time frame. The 1.5 mile test is designed to see how fast a person can run, jog or walk that specific distance.

The 12-minute test, often called the Cooper Test, has been used worldwide. The Federation Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, has used the test to measure individual athletes’ fitness in professional soccer since the early ’70s.

To learn more about this history of Aerobics and its impact around the world, read our 45th Anniversary Infographic.

  1. Jhih-Shang,Dong
    April 12, 2018 at 5:13 am

    I am a postgraduate student majoring in sport science (biomechanics),there is a question bothering me.We know that the result(km) of Cooper test could be applied to calculate the VO2max and the formula is VO2max=(22.351*kilometers)-11.288,but it do not consider the body weight.Because the unit of VO2max is ml*kg/min,the per kg body weight is which I worry about.

  2. April 24, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    Dear Mr. Jhih-Shang,Dong,

    I want to thank you for your recent communication asking for more details about the Cooper Test and specifically its correlation with maximal oxygen consumption.

    First of all, the formula that you are citing to estimate VO2 max from distance covered in the 12 minute test is correct. In fact, it is the same formula that I published in a 1968 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The only difference was it used miles instead of kilometers.

    For any speed of walking or running, the VO2 max will be the same ml/kg/min regardless of body weight. This is supported not only by my work, but also by the metabolic equations that the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has been using for decades. What will change according to body weight is the absolute VO2 in liters/min.

    It was a good question and I hope that I have given you a satisfactory answer. If not, feel free to contact me again.


    Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH
    Founder & Chairman, Cooper Aerobics

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