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 gait restrictions.
While it’s simple and free to do, it is limited in the data it provides; just because your hamstrings are loose, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in great health. “Plus, differences in arm, leg, and trunk length can make comparing individuals misleading,” Chopra says. What’s more, you’re only getting data about a few specific parts of the entire body, which is in itself limiting.
We might now be heading into familiar territory. The BMI test – which combines your height and weight to offer up 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 percentages, thinking about the test’s usefulness has shifted in recent years, especially so with renewed thinking that people carrying extra weight 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 does not always imply that a person is overweight or obese, and it is not a direct indicator of health.”
That said, Chopra does reiterate that the BMI test can be a good indicator of your risk of coronary heart disease, hypertension and osteoarthritis. The thing is, most of us know carrying extra weight can put us at a greater risk of health issues, and we’re able to tell when we’ve put on 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 sifted through some of the most common fitness tests out there and exposed their shortcomings, it’s time to look at a test that will actually do everything you want it to. After conferring with Lanserhof biomechanist Edoardo D’Alessio, Chopra came up with the Cooper 12-minute walk/run test as the maximal test of aerobic fitness.
The purpose is to test aerobic fitness with participants running as fast and far as they can on a flat track in 12 minutes. You then use the formulas below to calculate your VO2 max.
VO2max = (35.971 x distance in miles) – 11.288
VO2max = (22.351 x distance in kilometres) – 11.288
Great, but didn’t we cover this with the beep test? Well, in addition to being less taxing (and possibly shorter) that the beep test, the Cooper test allows you to compare your results with the average of others in your age range, which then provides and overall picture of how your physical abilities rank up.
Like any test it isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t give you every single metric of your health (you can’t do this test and find out you’ll live to say, 96 for example) but using their combined experience and knowledge, D’Alessio and Chopra believe this is the ultimate test of your fitness and wellbeing.
The average man aged 30-39, for example will cover 1900-2299 metres in 12 minutes. Below 1500 is poor, above 2700 metres is excellent. For a 40 – 49 year-old, 1700-2099 is average. It also allows comparison between the sexes, too. For a woman in her 30s, 1700-1999 metres is average, while 2500 metres is again excellent.
“There are a few variations of this test, it can also be conducted by running on a treadmill for 12 minutes, set to level 1 incline to mimic outdoor running,” advises Chopra. And there are also swim, cycle and wheelchair variations, as well as walking tests for older participants – all of which provides a fantastic well of data for you to compare yourself to, and compete against…