As Chopra points out, this test can be used to monitor your risk of acute and chronic musculoskeletal injuries, as well as your risk of falling, postural problems, and any walking impairments you may have.
While this is easy and free, the data provided is limited. Just because your hamstrings are loose doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the best of health. “Also, differences in arm, leg, and torso length can make comparing people misleading,” says Chopra. In addition, you only get data on a few specific parts of the entire body, which is limiting in itself.
We could now be entering familiar territory. The BMI test – which combines your height and weight to show your body fat percentage – is the bane of people trying to lose weight. While it was once thought to be a key indicator of healthy or unhealthy fat levels, thinking about the test’s usefulness has changed in recent years, particularly with the renewed consideration that obese people can still be athletic.
“BMI is not a diagnostic tool, nor does it represent a percentage of body fat,” Chopra explains. “A high BMI may or may not be an indicator of excess body fat, but it doesn’t always mean a person is overweight or obese, and it’s not a direct indicator of health.”
However, Chopra reiterates that the BMI test can be a good indicator of your risk of coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis. The thing is, most of us know that carrying extra weight can put us at greater risk for health problems, and we can tell when we’ve gained a few extra pounds. So do we really need a test to make us feel bad about that fourth pint? Probably not.
The recommendation: The Cooper 12-Minute Walk/Run Test
Now we’ve gone through some of the most common fitness tests and uncovered their shortcomings. It’s time to look at a test that actually does everything you want it to. After consulting with Lanserhof biomechanist Edoardo D’Alessio, Chopra developed Cooper’s 12-minute walk/run test as a maximal test of aerobic fitness.
The aim is to test aerobic fitness by having participants run as fast and as far as they can on a flat course in 12 minutes. You then use the following formulas to calculate your VO2max.
VO2max = (35.971 x distance in miles) – 11.288
VO2max = (22.351 x distance in kilometers) – 11.288
Great, but didn’t we cover that with the beep test? Well, not only is the Cooper test less strenuous (and potentially shorter) than the Pie test, but it also allows you to compare your results to the average of others in your age group, which then gives an overall picture of how your physical cut skills.
Like any test, it’s not perfect and won’t give you every single reading of your health (you can’t take this test and find out you’ll live to say, say, 96), but rather leverage their combined experience and knowledge, D’Alessio and Chopra believe that this is the ultimate test of your fitness and well-being.
For example, the average man aged 30 to 39 covers 1900 to 2299 meters in 12 minutes. Under 1500m is bad, over 2700m is excellent. For a 40-49 year old, 1700-2099 is average. It also allows comparison between genders. For a woman in her thirties, 1700 to 1999 meters is average, while again 2500 meters is excellent.
“There are some variations of this test, it can also be done by running for 12 minutes on a treadmill set to Level 1 to mimic running outdoors,” advises Chopra. And there are also swim, bike, wheelchair variations and walk tests for older participants – all of which provide a fantastic source of data to compare and compete against…