Everyone remembers the dreaded bleep test at school, you’d be winded, huffing and puffing and willing your best friend to give up so you could finish one round ahead of them. Those bleeps aren't the only way we can test our levels of fitness.
Modern technology as well as traditional testing allows us to get a clearer picture of our level of fitness and identify strengths and weaknesses to help us improve.
There are hundreds of fitness tests out there, some good, some bad and some ugly. We’ve sifted through the masses to bring you our top fitness assessments.
When it comes to fitness, you’ve probably heard of this phrase, it’s hard to avoid the term VO2max if you're interested in exercise, but do you know what it means?
V02 max is simply your body’s ability to consume oxygen. This is effected by factors such as how adapted your muscles are to exercise and how much blood your heart can pump.
The most accurate VO2max tests take place in laboratories. Participants are masked up whilst running on a treadmill, with their effort getting progressively more intense. Your oxygen intake is monitored and your VO2 max occurs when the rate at which you uptake oxygen redlines, usually this takes a fast speed, bordering a sprint.
The units of oxygen are then measure per kilogram of bodyweight and your VO2max is calculated.
Whilst many new smart watches such as the Garmin 630 provide VO2 max readings, these are only estimates, as they don’t take into account the measure of ventilation, oxygen and carbon dioxide concentration of the inhaled and exhaled air. Whilst they may be a useful guess, don’t get caught up by the value you’ve been given.
VO2 Max Scores
Maximal oxygen uptake norms for men (ml/kg/min)
Maximal oxygen uptake norms for women (ml/kg/min)
When it comes to reading your V02max score, the higher the reading, the better.
Top VO2 Scores
How do you compare with these famous athletes?
VO2 max (ml/kg/min)
Espen Harald Bjerke
Cross Country Skiing
Cross Country Skiing
Tore Ruud Hofstad
Cross Country Skiing
Cross Country Skiing
Cross Country Runner
A person who is fit, in the cardiorespiratory sense of the word, would have a higher VO2max than someone who is less fit. However, having a larger VO2max than someone else, doesn’t necessarily mean that you could beat them in a race. It means your body is more able to absorb and use oxygen to generate energy for your muscles, and this will certainly give you an edge, but what you are actually capable of doing with that energy depends on many other factors.
Sit and rise test
The sit and rise test looks specifically at musculoskeletal movement as a way to predict mortality.
Brazilian physician Dr. Claudio Gil Araújo, the developer of the test, says that if you struggle while attempting it, your risk of dying in the next five years may be five times greater than those who do the test with ease.
How to do the sit and rise test:
Step 1: Stand straight and barefooted. Without leaning or using support, lower yourself onto the floor into the sitting position with legs crossed.
Step 2: Stand back up without any support.
You get 5 points for sitting and 5 for standing. Minus 1 point every time you use your hands, forearm, knee, or place your hands on your legs. Minus half a point every time you lose your balance.
Good: The 8-10 range mean you've got the greatest life expectancy.
Fair: The 3.5-7.5 range means you've got a problem. You may be twice as likely to die than those in the good range.
Poor: 0-3 is a warning that, according to the test, you're five times more likely to die in the next six years than those in the good range.
The good news is that you can improve your score. Every point you move up the scale reduces your risk of death by 21 percent, according to Araújo's study. So get moving and exercising.
Developments in technology have led to fitness testing via DNA tests. Users are sent a swab which they wipe with their saliva and then send back. These tests claim to analyse your genes to determine what type of exercise and diet is best suited to you (or so they say). Depending on the provider and the chosen test, anywhere between five and thirty genes are tested for common variations known to impact on exercise and/or weight management.
The variations you are found to have can tell you what your body responds best to in terms of endurance versus power exercises, your rate of recovery following exercise, how well your body utilises carbohydrates or fats, and even your likelihood of being lactose or gluten intolerant.
Whilst these brands offer a great insight into how your genetics affect your fitness, this is very much an evolving industry and there is not enough conclusive evidence to support their accuracy as of yet. The DNA fit website states: “"DNA testing for nutrition and fitness is an emerging science. Knowledge is evolving rapidly but is still far from complete. DNAFit prides itself on basing its genetic analysis and recommendations on the best science available, but that science is dynamic and may not always be conclusive. DNAFit may benefit some people more than others, and in some cases possibly provide no benefit."
Wattbike 3 minute test
The latest Watt bikes offer a 3 minute aerobic test to monitor your fitness. During the test the aim is to ride at a pace you can maintain for 3 minutes. A more advanced cyclist will be good at pacing, but for beginners try not too start to strong and use all your power in the first 20 seconds, 3 minutes is a lot longer than you think when you're trying to go as fast as you can!
Following the 3 minutes the Wattbike will be able to tell you:
- MMP - This is the maximum amount of power you can produce per minute.
- MHR - This is your maximum heart rate. For training zones see here
- Power to weight ratio - Per every kilogram of weight how much power you can produce. This is a fairer way than who can lift the heaviest weight.
- VO2max estimate - As mentioned above you VO2max is the maximum amount of Oxygen you can uptake.
- METs - Represents the intensity of the test.
The sit and reach flexibility test
The sit and reach test uses flexibility as a basis for judging your level of fitness. The test measures the flexibility of the lower back and hamstrings. Tightness in this area is associated with lumbar lordosis, forward pelvic tilt and lower back pain.
How to do a sit and reach test:
- The participant warms up for 10 minutes and then removes their shoes.
- The measurer secures the ruler to the box top with the tape so that the front edge of the box lines up with the 15cm (6 inches) mark on the ruler and the zero end of the ruler points towards the athlete.
- The participant sits on the floor with their legs fully extended with the bottom of their bare feet against the box.
- The participant places one hand on top of the other, slowly bends forward and reaches along the top of the ruler as far as possible holding the stretch for two seconds.
- The measurer records the distance reached by the participant’s fingertips (cm)
- The participant performs the test three times.
- The assistant calculates and records the average of the three distances and uses this value to assess the athlete’s performance.
The vertical jump test
The vertical jump is a measure of fitness through explosive power in the legs. The test is really simple to complete, to set up all you need is a wall and a tape measure. Start by getting the participant to stand next to the wall and stretch their closest hand up as far as they can and make a mark of this point. This is the standing height. The participant then leaps as high as they can in the air and touches the wall at the highest point of their jump. The distance from the start point to the highest point is then measure as your score. Take the test 3 times and take an average for the most accurate results.
Vertical jump test scores
Males (height in cm)
Females (height in cm)
Cooper run test
The Cooper run test is one of the most popular fitness tests used to determine aerobic endurance. It is also used as part of military training, with different scores being required to make the different roles entry requirements. The test lasts just 12 minutes and participants are required to run as far as they can for the entire duration. The test can also be used to measure VO2 max using several equations (in ml/kg/min) from the distance score (a formula for either kms or miles):
VO2max = (35.97 x miles) - 11.29
VO2max = (22.35 x kilometers) - 11.29
Cooper run test scores
Very Good (metres)
Male: 2700m +
Male: 2800 +
Male: 2400 +
Female: 2200 +
The bleep test
The bleep test is old school. The test involves 20m shuttle runs from two marked points. The aim is to reach the cone before you hear the bleep. As the test continues, so the frequency of the bleeps increases, with the time between getting shorter and shorter. The test requires a cd and the score is then measured depending on how many rounds you last.
Bleep test scores
11 - 13
10 - 12
9 - 11
8 - 10
7 - 9
6 - 8
5 - 7
4 - 6
Whichever test you decide to do, don’t just do it once and leave it at that. In six weeks time, hit it again, has your score improved? Fitness tests are a great way of monitoring your progress and seeing if your training is actually working. Fitness tests make goals measurable, if you can’t measure it how are you going to know how to celebrate when you’ve smashed it?