Cooper test: what is it and what is it for?

This test is a physical test widely used to evaluate the aerobic resistance of people. Discover how it is done and what is taken into account to achieve the results.

Last update: 09 February, 2022

It is very likely that you have the memory of performing endurance tests during school physical education. The most important is the Cooper test, very common both in secondary institutes and in advanced studies. It is an evaluation that serves to measure aerobic capacity through a simple and effective challenge.

It is based on a race at constant speed and has its origin in the military field. However, thanks to its effectiveness, it transcended to different types of sports. Any adult person can use the Cooper test to determine the physical resistance of him.

What is the Cooper test?

This test is an endurance test that It consists of traveling the greatest possible distance at a constant speed during a period of 12 minutes.. In this way, it works as an evaluation of aerobic capacity. It is very easy to do, since it only requires a flat surface, a stopwatch and a method to calculate the meters.

Its creation dates back to 1968, in the state of Oklahoma (United States). There, an American soldier and doctor named Kenneth H. Cooper designed it as a quick and cheap way to know the physical state of the members of the army.

After its origin in the military field, its effectiveness led it to be practiced in fire departments, police and athletes, up to the secondary training institutes. The study carried out by Journal of the American Medical Association endorsed and disclosed the positive results of the test.

Cooper test formula

The basic formula of this test is based on simple mathematics that reveals performance and progress of aerobic capacity. The calculation takes into account the unit called V02 max.which represents the maximum oxygen consumption required by the body during the test.

The number results from the combination of some variables established by its creator. For example, the number of kilometers traveled by the person, his age and in how many minutes he traveled them.

School physical education uses the Cooper test to determine basic levels of resistance in students.

What is the test for?

The Cooper test has a clear objective. It is used to evaluate aerobic resistance related to cardiopulmonary work. To do it, it is convenient to have a good physical preparation, since it requires up to certain limits. The importance of the aerobic aspect gave great prominence to the test.

From a good cardiopulmonary resistance you can work the rest of the body in a more demanding way. Cooper’s test sets the current state, which can be useful for planning routines and custom plans.

The Cooper test in schools

Soldiers usually have a strong physical demand and the test is designed, in principle, for their evaluation. For this reason, many are against its application in schools. What’s more, it would be convenient to practice it with a previous medical consultation.

However, executed in a way that does not take the demand to the limit, it allows evaluating and knowing the physical state of each student. In this way, it is possible to better target the classes. The parameters and numbers in the table must be adapted to take into account the diversity of ages.



Tips to do it

Although it is a simple and quick test, certain safety aspects must be taken into account. With the following advice possible accidents, overloads or injuries are avoided:

  • Preheating: Performing a muscle warm-up improves performance.
  • Surface: It has to be flat, with no ups, downs or slopes.
  • Health condition: It is convenient to have an optimal state of health, without physical discomfort.
  • Improve the brand: You don’t have to obsess or get discouraged. Most people don’t make it to high ranks on the first few tests. It can be constantly improved.
  • Feeding: do not eat heavy meals before performing the test.
  • Height: avoid high places. It is advisable to practice it near sea level.
  • Dress: Wear light clothing designed for physical exercise. Footwear must also be suitable.
  • Contraindications: Those who suffer from respiratory conditions, such as asthma, should not take the test.

How to evaluate the results of the Cooper test?

Beyond knowing the formula well, there are some parameters designed by Kenneth Cooper that work as guides. The doctor developed tables of calculations or scales that serve as a clear reference to evaluate the physical condition of the person. The main variables taken into account are age, physical condition and whether it is a man or a woman.

In this way, men aged 20 to 29 enter the category of very good physical condition if they covered 2800 meters or more in the established 12 minutes. The qualification is lowered at the same time as the distance is lowered:

  • Good: from 2400 to 2800 meters.
  • Half: from 2200 to 2400 meters.
  • Bad: from 1600 to 2200 meters.
  • Very bad: less than 1600 meters.
Men and women are measured according to different tables to catalog their performance on the test.

The same reference is used for women. But in this case, the number of meters goes down a bit.

Thus, a woman between the ages of 20 and 29 needs to travel 2.7 kilometers to enter the consideration very good. The rest is as follows:

  • Good: from 2200 to 2700 meters.
  • Half: from 1800 to 2200 meters.
  • Bad: from 1500 to 1800 meters.
  • Very bad: less than 1500 meters.

Finally, the table conforms age ranges of 10 years. The demands of the categories decrease as the age of the person is more advanced. It is divided into ranges from 30 to 39, from 40 to 49 and over 50 years.

Other tests

There are several instances to evaluate various aspects of physical capacity. For example, the test of burpee, based on the number of repetitions a person can perform of the exercise. In this case, what is measured is the anaerobic resistance.

What’s more, there are tests aimed at measuring muscle strength, that is, the ability to apply voltage on a resistor. Lastly, muscular endurance focuses on the amount of time an effort can be sustained.



test, not training

It’s common to happen, but The Cooper test should not be confused with a form of training.. It is a test of physical resistance and not a routine.

What works is to apply different types of exercises that aim to improve the test mark. Especially those that combine strength, speed and endurance.

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