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First Try At Cooper 12 Minute Test

A lot of authors are emphasizing maximum aerobic oxygen consumption (VO2max) as being important for healthy aging, so I thought I’d look into testing it. It’s expensive to have done professionally, but there are multiple self-tests available. I wanted a cycling one, and remembered there was one in the book Aerobics Program For Total Well-Being written by Dr. Kenneth Cooper (often called the “father of aerobics”) back in 1982, still available. Dr. Cooper turned 93 this year and is himself a good advertisement for healthy aging. He developed a 12 minute aerobics test for running originally, but in this book also gave tables for swimming and cycling.

Dr Cooper used data from a large number of subjects of various ages to correlate the results of these tests to V02max. You can also just compare your results on the tests to his tables, which have categories “very poor” through “excellent”. Unfortunately, the data stops at the “60+” category, but by plotting the results and extrapolating, I estimated that to be in the excellent category for cycling at 70+, males have to achieve a distance of greater than 3.5 miles in 12 minutes (equivalent to average speed of over 17.5 mph). For those that don’t have the book, the cycling results are also here and also shown below.

So I created a nearby flat loop, which is now on Strava as “Cooper TT North” (it is a bit north of Morgan Hill, between Hale and Dougherty avenues), shown here. I did this as part of my ride yesterday morning, and covered the 3.89 mile loop in 13:14, for an average speed of 17.63 mph, which is equivalent to covering 3.5 miles in 11.9 minutes). So based on my estimate, I’m in the excellent category for age 70+ (and in the middle of the “good” category for 60+). That feels pretty good!

Dr, Cooper didn’t specify bike position in his book, but aerobars were not widely available in the early 80s, so I figured my higher-speed set up on my recumbent, with a highly reclined seat (at least as aero as an upright time trial bike with aerobars), might be cheating a bit compared to the data in the tests. So I used low rolling resistance tires but the more upright “touring” seating position of my bike. I will repeat this test about once a month and hopefully be able to improve for a while, and at least keep my results from degrading too quickly over time.

Here are the tables for the Cooper bike test:

Source: https://www.topendsports.com/testing/tests/cycle-12-minutes.htm

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