The Cooper 12 minute run is a popular maximal running test of aerobic fitness, in which participants try and cover as much distance as they can in 12 minutes.
- purpose: to test aerobic fitness (the ability of the body to use oxygen to power it while running)
- equipment required: flat oval or running track, marker cones, recording sheets, stop watch.
- procedure: Place markers at set intervals around the track to aid in measuring the completed distance. Participants run for 12 minutes, and the total distance covered is recorded. Walking is allowed, though the participants must be encouraged to push themselves as hard as they can to maximize the distance covered.
- scoring: There are Cooper test norm tables for general guidelines for interpreting the results of this test for adults. There are also several equations that can be used to estimate VO2max (in ml/kg/min) from the distance score (a formula for either kms or miles):
VO2max = (35.97 x miles) – 11.29
VO2max = (22.35 x kilometers) – 11.29
- target population: This test can be modified to be suitable for most populations. For those who are unfit or unable to run, there are similar walking tests that can be performed.
- validity: Cooper (1968) reported a correlation of 0.90 between VO2max and the distance covered in a 12 min walk/run.
- reliability: the reliability of this test would depend on practice, pacing strategies and motivation level. There should be good reliability if these issues are addressed.
- advantages: large groups can be tested at once, and it is a very cheap and simple test to perform.
- disadvantages: practice and pacing is required, and performance on this test can be affected greatly by motivation.
- comments: the world record for 5000m is held by Kenenisa Bekele in 12:37.35. Based on that time, he would complete 4752m or 11.88 laps in 12 min.
- variations / modifications: The test can also be conducted by running on a treadmill for 12 minutes, set to level 1 (1 percent) incline to mimic outdoor running. There are also many variations of the walk / run test. A very similar test is the Balke 15 minute run. Testing is generally easier to administer when the distance is fixed and the finishing time measured, so the alternative Cooper 1.5 mile (2.4km) run test was developed.
- references: The original article that describes this test: Cooper, K. H. (1968) A means of assessing maximal oxygen uptake. Journal of the American Medical Association 203:201-204.