fitness test

Top Running Fitness Tests

Fitness tests are indispensable for any serious runner.

If done correctly, they could give you a very accurate indication of your cardiovascular endurance, namely a measure of your ability for continuous exercising for extended periods of time without exhaustion.

The good news is: you can easily find plenty of run tests available out there,designed for all age categories and fitness levels.

To make the most out of run tests, effective pacing is essential to maximize your results and get a true reflection of your actual fitness level.

The instructors could definitely offer valuable assistance by encouraging participants to exert maximal effort and conducting a trial test one week prior to the actual test.

This way, runners could get a realistic feel of the expected effort and, as a result, ensure to get the utmost benefit from the test.

As most of these tests are conducted outdoors, It’s important to bear in mind that external conditions could greatly affect your test results.

These include extremely hot/cold weather, strong winds, and the condition of the running surface. T

hese conditions must be taken into consideration when you analyze your test results.

Let’s explore some of these tests in detail.

Kenneth Cooper’s 12-Minute Run

This test is a popular aerobic fitness maximal running test that measures the capability of the runner’s body to fully use oxygen to power itself while running.

Required Equipment

Running track or flat oval, recording sheets, marking cones, and stop watch.


Markers should be placed at preset intervals around the track in order to aid in measuring the distance completed.

Participants are required to run for 12 minutes, recording the total distance covered.

Walking is allowed but not recommended to encourage participants to push themselves to the limit.

Adult Males Results Table

Excellent2700 m
Good2300 – 2700 m
Average1900 – 2300 m
Below average1500 – 1900 m
Poor < 1500 m

The above table gives general guidelines for interpreting test results for adults.

The results are only approximate values.

The  above table gives general guidelines for interpreting test results  for adults. The results are only approximate values.

Scoring Criteria: 

There are specific equations used to estimate VO2 max, which is the maximal uptake of oxygen or the maximum oxygen volume that could be used in one minute during exhaustive or maximal exercise.

VO2 max is measured by millilitres of oxygen used in one minute per kilogram of your body weight.

The equations covers distances in kilometres/miles:
VO2 max = (22.351 x kilometres) – 11.288
VO2 max = (35.97 x miles) – 11.29

Targeted Population

This test could be easily modified to suite  most populations.

For unfit people or people who are unable to run, similar walking tests could be performed instead.


Kenneth Cooper  reported the correlation of 0.90 between VO2 max and the distance covered in a 12-minute run/walk.

Test Reliability

Pacing strategies, practice and above all, motivational level determine how reliable and accurate the test results are


Ideal test for large groups plus being very simple and cost-effective.

Possible Modifications

 The test is very flexible that it could  be conducted by running on a treadmill for the same duration of 12 minutes.

Be sure to set the treadmill  level 1 (1% ) incline in order to mimic normal outdoor running.

Endurance Run / Walk Test

This test is based on the procedures used by the “President’s Challenge Fitness Awards”. This test mainly measures the aerobic endurance of the runner, which is  an important health measure in many sports.

  • Required Equipment: level marked and smooth one-mile track, stopwatch, paper and pencil.
  • Run Distance: one mile
  • Procedure: The aim of this test is the completion of  a one-mile-run as fast as possible. After clarifying  the test  instructions, the participants start running on the count “Ready? Set, Go!”. Running could be interrupted by occasional walking. However, fast finishing should be their number one priority.
  • Possible Modifications: for young children, a shorter test is performed, using the same procedure but different distance: 1/4 mile for ages 6 to 7 and 1/2 mile for  ages 8 to 9.
  • Scoring Criteria: time needed to complete the required distance is recorded in minutes/seconds.These results could be compared to published test results for similar age groups.
  • Advantages: minimal cost and equipment are involved, the test could be easily self-administered.

One Kilometre Run Test

The 1 km run test is ideal for youngsters and people with low fitness level. It’s one of the tests used by the “International Physical Fitness Test Battery”. The distance is usually less than 1 km for young boys and girls.

  • Required Equipment: running track or oval, and stopwatch.
  • Run Distance: 1 km for boys ages 14 to 19 , 800 meters for girls ages 14 to 19, and 600 meters for girls and boys  ages 13  and under.
  • Procedure: The target of this test is the completion of  the required distance as fast as possible. Once they hear: “Ready,” all participants must line-up behind the designated starting line. When they hear: “Go”, the clock  starts, and they start running at their own pace.  Walking is not encouraged but permitted. Calling the elapsed time and cheering is allowed to add the element of excitement.
  • Scoring Criteria: Total completion time is recorded per minutes/seconds.
  • Test Reliability: pacing strategies, practice and above all, motivational level determine how reliable and accurate the test results are.
  • Advantages: Very simple and cheap test that requires minimal equipment and is suitable for groups up to 30.

U.S. Marine PFT (Physical Fitness Test) Three-Mile Run

This test is performed by U.S. Marine personnel twice a year every six months.

  • Purpose: This fitness test measures legs muscles endurance and aerobic fitness.
  • Required Equipment: three-mile flat-running course and a stopwatch.
  • Procedure: The target of this test is the completion of the three miles distance in the shortest time possible. To start-up, all participants line behind the starting line. Once they hear ‘Go,’ time counting will start and participants will run at their own pace. Occasional walking is permitted.
  • Scoring: The total course completion time is recorded for every participant. For men, approximately one point is deducted from one hundred for every ten seconds slower than eighteen minutes. For women, approximately a single point is deducted from one hundred for every ten seconds slower than twenty one minutes. The participants must complete the run under a given time in order to pass the test. Check the below table for the minimum requirements for men and women.
Age3-Mile Run Males3-Mile Run Females
  • CommentsTo achieve optimal result in this test, good pacing and adequate practice are required. However, motivation is the number one factor affecting the overall test performance.

1.5 Mile Run: Physical-Readiness-Test

This test is performed by the United States Navy personnel twice a year.

  • Purpose: measuring legs muscles endurance and aerobic fitness.
  • Required Equipment: 1.5 mile hard/flat running course and stopwatch.
  • Procedure: This test target is completing the 1.5-mile course in the shortest time possible. On start, all participants line up behind the starting line. On the command “Go”, the clock starts, and participants begin running at their own pace. Walking is completely discouraged but authorized when necessary. Upon test completion, a cool- down-walk is performed.
  • Scoring: Time taken to complete the required distance is recorded for each participant.
  • Comments: During the run, it is critical to provide medical support in place or some sort of medical emergency plan. In addition, serious climate conditions such as humid, cold, or hot weather should be completely avoided. Water or other sports fluids should be readily available after test completion.

The 20-Meter Run Fitness Test

This test is developed by fitness and health consultant John Miller.

  • Required Equipment: none-slippery and flat surface, 20-meter measuring tape, marking cones, and stopwatch.
  • Description: This test requires continuous running between two lines that are twenty meters apart, attempting to complete as much distance as possible in five minutes. At least one foot must step over the end-line on each lap. Excellent pacing is essential so that the utmost distance is achieved in the allocated time. Walking is allowed but not encouraged.
  • Scoring: The athlete’s score is counted as the total number of 20-meter shuttles completed in five minutes. The greater the number of shuttles completed, the more fit you are. John Miller reports that the top score he recorded for men was sixty and for women was fifty five. The worst score was nine for a man and a woman.
  • Target Test Takers: this test is ideal for people of various fitness levels. It is particularly suitable for those who have poor fitness levels.
  • Advantages: Large groups could easily perform this test simultaneously as long as there is enough number of people for counting laps. Alternatively, each participant would be responsible for counting his own laps.
  • Disadvantages: motivation and pace levels can influence the test score. As this test is often conducted outdoors, credibility of test results maybe questioned due to weather and environmental conditions.

The 300-Meter Anaerobic Run Test

  • Purpose: this test is designed to measure “anaerobic capacity”, which is very important for performing intense yet short amount of effort.
  • Required Equipment: running track or oval, stopwatch, plus optional marker cones to be placed around the course.
  • Procedure: The target of this test is the completion 300 meters in the fastest time possible. An adequate warm-up is required before the test, such as stretching, jogging, or short sprints. For start-up, participants should stand behind the starting line. Once they hear the command “Go”, running and time recording will begin.
  • Scoring: The total time taken to complete the 300-meter run is recorded, to the nearest 10th of a second. The below table shows test ratings for adult men.
RatingTime (seconds)
poor> 77
below average71.1 – 77
average65.1 – 71
above average59.1 – 65
good54.1 – 59
very good48 – 54
excellent< 48
  • Reliability: the reliability of this test would depend on pacing and practice strategies and above all, motivation level. Once these key issues are taken into consideration, test results are definitely reliable.
  • Advantages: Large groups can do this very easily and it’s cost-effective test.
  • Comments: Participants may finish this test at a very close rate to each other. If the number of assistants needed to record completion times is insufficient, consider splitting up participants into smaller groups.