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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.

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