The best beginner's VO2 max test (one-mile walk)!
The Rockport Walking Test is the perfect cardio fitness test for beginners. Time yourself for a one-mile brisk walk on a flat surface, take your pulse, enter your results in the calculator, and look up your VO2 max score from the charts below.
VO2 max impacts our performance, our health, and even our survival! Improving your VO2 Max score by just 3.5 points can reduce your risk of premature death by 13%. You would have to lose nearly 3 inches from your waist for a similar health benefit! (2,8)
Four tips to prepare for the Rockport Walking Test
1) If you’re going to walk as fast as you can, a warm-up would be a smart move. Light effort walking and a couple sets of leg swings and brief stretching exercises work well to activate your muscles and boost your circulation before you begin. This YouTube video from Why I Exercise demonstrates the recommended exercises (at 1:40).
2) The test results depend on your heart rate and walking speed. The faster your speed, the stronger your exertion and the more accurate your score will be. If you haven't practiced power-walking technique, you may find that you can walk faster than you think. Scroll down or click here to learn more.
3) Do you have a good route picked out? Avoid hills or traffic, which would increase your heart rate or slow you down. You can use a track, a treadmill set at 1% grade, or a fitness watch to measure the one-mile distance.
4) Before you start the test, practice taking your pulse to be sure you’ll get an accurate score. With your palm facing up, place your fingers over the thumb side of your wrist, just to the inside of your wrist tendons. Press in gently and feel for your pulse. You’ll take your pulse for 15 seconds right after you finish walking.
Note: The Rockport Walking Test gives the most accurate results for non-athlete working-age adults. If a one-mile brisk walk would be very easy for you, even at a power walking pace, you’ll get a more accurate score from maximum effort tests like the Cooper 1.5-mile or 12-minute run. The 3-Minute Step Test is another reliable option, though it will not give you a VO2 max score.
Directions for the Rockport Walking Test
1) Walk as quickly as possible for one mile. It's important to maintain a steady pace for best results.
2) Enter your time in minutes and seconds into the calculator.
3) Take your pulse immediately after completing the mile for 15 seconds. Multiply this number by 4 and enter it into the calculator also.
Age group scoring charts for the Rockport Walking Test
(Figures shown are VO2 Max scores)
This chart shows the standards for women by age group. If you are 22 years old or younger, multiply the number you get from the calculator by 0.81 to get your score. Age group is in the left column, death risk and fitness rating are in the top rows, and 10-year-survival is in the bottom row. Notice the difference it makes to improve from poor to fair fitness!
Ladies in their 40s with a VO2 Max lower than 24.5 (Poor) had a 39% higher risk of contracting diabetes than their more fit peers (9). Find your score from the calculator, then look just to the right on the chart to see your VO2. If you are 22 years old or younger, multiply your score from the calculator by 0.81.
Here is the chart for men. Age group is in the left column, death risk and fitness rating are in the top rows, and 10-year-survival is in the bottom row. If you’re a male 22 years old or younger, multiply the number you get from the calculator by 0.85 to get your score. These scoring standards come from Cleveland Clinic VO2 Max testing of over 120,000 people with 15 years of follow-up to gauge health outcomes.(2)
Men rated in the highest 1/3 of fitness (just below Excellent or better) have a 39% lower risk of heart disease and stroke than their peers in the lowest 1/3 (just above Poor or worse). (10) Premature deaths among obese men could be reduced by 44% just by improving fitness above the poor category. (11)
You can calculate your VO2 max directly from any of four fitness tests using this free e-book from Why I Exercise. Calculate your most important fitness metrics privately, all in one place: VO2 max, Waist-Hip Ratio, Waist-Height Ratio, and BMI. Click the link below to check out this free training resource!
Power walking technique for the Rockport walking test.
With an aggressive arm swing and intentional push-off, power walking recruits more muscle groups to help propel you forward. My top walking speed over a mile increased from 4.3 to 4.9 mph by switching from brisk walking to power walking. The YouTube video from Why I Exercise shows the difference between power walking and brisk walking.
Keep your elbows bent 90 degrees and drive your elbows back. Intentionally push off the ball of your foot with each step. Throughout the walk, stay tall and keep your gaze forward. Use power walking for the test only if you feel comfortable with it. You want to hold a steady pace for the entire mile.
Choose workouts and activities that match your fitness level
Improving your fitness can be as simple as spending more time on your usual activities. Here is a range of physical activities compared by their intensity. Find activities similar to these that are available to you on your busiest days.
Establish a routine and get used to being more active, then pick up the intensity to increase your benefits. There are more and more possibilities as you get in better shape.
This chart helps you pick workouts and physical activities matched to your ability level. Find your VO2 Max score on the left, then scan to the right to find exercise intensity ratings for moderate, vigorous, and hard workouts. The intensity ratings are based on Metabolic Equivalent of Task, or MET. Choose from even more workouts and physical activities here.
This article is from Part Five of our Fit For Your Life Masterclass, where we cover tools that give you the health benefits you need from the lifestyle you enjoy. More chapters from the masterclass are below.
Fit For Your Life, The Masterclass Articles!
VO2 max impacts our performance, our health, and even our survival! Learn how to test yourself accurately with the Rockport 1-Mile Walk, Cooper 12-Minute Run, or Cooper 1.5-Mile Run. Find out whether you’re fit enough for optimal health and top performance.
Exercise and inactivity impact the ways our bodies age. With this in mind, how could (or should) we be aging? You’ll see in-depth, research-based scientific analysis of the aging process, plus inspiring examples of healthy aging.
Fine tune your lifestyle for a longer life expectancy, using the activities you enjoy. Create effective training programs from daily life activities, senior-friendly activities, sports, leisure activities, and cardio exercise.
1) Kline GM, Porcari JP, Hintermeister R, Freedson PS, Ward A, McCarron RF, Ross J, Rippe JM. Estimation of VO2max from a one-mile track walk, gender, age, and body weight. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1987 Jun;19(3):253-9. PMID: 3600239.
2) Mandsager K, Harb S, Cremer P, Phelan D, Nissen SE, Jaber W. Association of Cardiorespiratory Fitness With Long-term Mortality Among Adults Undergoing Exercise Treadmill Testing. JAMA Netw Open. 2018 Oct 5;1(6):e183605. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.3605. PMID: 30646252; PMCID: PMC6324439.
3) Dolgener FA, Hensley LD, Marsh JJ, Fjelstul JK. Validation of the Rockport Fitness Walking Test in college males and females. Res Q Exerc Sport. 1994 Jun;65(2):152-8. doi: 10.1080/02701367.1994.10607610. PMID: 8047707.
4) Fenstermaker KL, Plowman SA, Looney MA. Validation of the Rockport Fitness Walking Test in females 65 years and older. Res Q Exerc Sport. 1992 Sep;63(3):322-7. doi: 10.1080/02701367.1992.10608749. PMID: 1513964.
5) McSwegin, P.J., Plowman, S.A., Wolff, G.M., & Guttenberg, G.L. (1998). The Validity of a One-Mile Walk Test for High School Age Individuals. Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science, 2, 47-63.
6) Arizona State University, Healthy Lifestyles Research Center, Compendium of Physical Activities, https://sites.google.com/site/compendiumofphysicalactivities/home
7) Rospo G, Valsecchi V, Bonomi AG, Thomassen IW, van Dantzig S, La Torre A, Sartor F. Cardiorespiratory Improvements Achieved by American College of Sports Medicine's Exercise Prescription Implemented on a Mobile App. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2016 Jun 23;4(2):e77. doi: 10.2196/mhealth.5518. PMID: 27339153; PMCID: PMC4937178.
8) Duck-chul Lee, Enrique G Artero, Xuemei Sui and Steven N Blair, Mortality trends in the general population: the importance of cardiorespiratory fitness, Journal of Psychopharmacology 24(11) Supplement 4. 27–3, Available from http://jop.sagepub.com/content/24/4_suppl/27.long
9) Xuemei Sui, MD, Steven P. Hooker, PhD, et al, A Prospective Study of Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Women, Diabetes Care December 10, 2007, available from http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2007/12/10/dc07-1870
10) Xuemei Sui, Michael J. LaMonte, and Steven N. Blair, Cardiorespiratory Fitness as a Predictor of Nonfatal Cardiovascular Events in Asymptomatic Women and Men; American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 165, No. 12; available from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17406007
11) Ming Wei; James B. Kampert; Carolyn E. Barlow; et al., Relationship Between Low Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Mortality in Normal-Weight, Overweight, and Obese Men; JAMA. 1999;282(16):1547-1553; Available from http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/282/16/1547