Rockport Walking Test: How a 1 Mile Walk Can Test Your Fitness Levels

If you’re looking for a quick way to measure your level of fitness, you don’t have to see a doctor or go through a complex stress test.

Instead, you can do it in less than 30 minutes with a simple one-mile walk called “The Rockport Walking Test.”

The Rockport Walking Test is a fitness test that is designed to assess someone’s VO2max, which is the term used to describe maximal oxygen uptake, an important measure of physical fitness.

In this article, I will define the Rockport Walking Test, how it’s perfect for measuring your fitness level, what you need to complete, and how to calculate (and rate) the results.

Let’s get to it…

What is the Rockport Walking Test?

The Rockport Walking Test is a science-based measurement that’s designed to assess your cardiac fitness level. The test was developed back in 1987 by Kline et al. in order to predict someone’s VO2max. The original study focused on an adult population for adults between 40 and 69 years of age.

Since that time, the test has been validated in additional studies, including one that was performed by the United States Air Force. In the Air Force study, published back in 2011, the researchers tested the reliability of the Rockport Walk Test by comparing it against the physical standards of Air Force testing at the time.

The Air Force’s fitness program at the time was a biannual assessment that included a 1.5 mile run in addition to sit-ups and push-ups. During the study, 24 males completed a 1-mile walk (the walking test) in addition to the typical 1.5-mile run. The study found that there were no significant differences in the number of points scored during the Rockport Test when compared to the points scored in the 1.5-mile run. Furthermore, there were also no significant differences between the average and predicted VO2max. Therefore, this study shows that the Air Force could use the Rockport Walking Test as a reliable alternative to the traditional 1.5-mile run.

As the research above shows, the Rockport Test is an effective fitness test because it is both fast and reliable. For those who would like to perform this walking test, there are a few tools that are required.

What You Need to Perform the Rockport Walking Test

The goal of the Rockport Test is to evaluate someone’s lung capacity in relation to their exercise tolerance. In addition to the research above, the test has been expanded to include men and women between the ages of 20 and 69. It is performed routinely; however, there are a few tools that are required.

These include:

  • A reliable stopwatch that extends out to milliseconds. Some people like to use two stopwatches at the same time in case one of them doesn’t start or stop on time. 
  • A level track that extends for one-mile. Many people use a 400-meter track that is found at a local park or school. While the study above used a treadmill, this is not recommended for the Rockport Walking Test.
  • A good, comfortable, reliable pair of walking shoes. Here are our recommendations for women and our recommendations for men.
  • Appropriate workout clothes which could include gym shorts, an athletic shirt, or a tracksuit.
  • An accurate scale that can take measurements in pounds.

Finally, those who would like to perform the Rockport Walk Test will also need to obtain a device that can be used to measure heart rate. Some people take their own pulse; however, if they lose count, they have to start over. This could mean running to test again to get the heart rate up. Therefore, a fitness tracker or a heart rate monitor is recommended. Many people like using a fitness tracker because it can double as a stopwatch in addition to measuring someone’s heart rate.

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A reliable stopwatch is required to perform the Rockport Walk Test.

Because the Rockport Walk Test is less strenuous than a longer run, this test is popular among adults who are overweight, older, or otherwise sedentary.

How To Perform the Rockport Walking Test

In order to perform this walking test, put on the appropriate athletic gear and head out a level track as mentioned above. Many people use a local high school track. Remember that four laps around the track equals one mile. Using the innermost lane is fine.

Alternatively, if a school track is not available, it is possible to use an online mapping tool to measure a one-mile long course that is level throughout that doesn’t involve stop signs, barriers, or elevation changes. Remember that even a slight change in elevation can impact the results of the test.

Once at the course, there are a few steps to follow in order to complete the Rockport Walking Test. These include:

  • Take a few minutes to warm up with some light stretching. Focus on the core and legs, specifically the hamstrings, to prevent a muscle strain. Most people don’t walk strenuously regularly, so try to perform some dynamic stretching that will not only stretch out the muscles but get the heart rate up as well.
  • Next, start walking the course as quickly as possible. Start the stopwatch at the same time the walk begins. It could be helpful to have someone else use the stopwatch. Try to make the walk strenuous but be careful not to start running.
  • Complete the walk as quickly as possible with safety in mind. At the end of the one-mile walk. Stop the stopwatch immediately. Record the time using decimals according to the minutes. For example, a time of 12:45 means twelve minute and 45 seconds. This time is recorded as 12.75 minutes.
  • As soon as the walk is over, check the heart rate as well. This can be done by using two fingers and checking the pulse on the wrist or the neck. It is helpful to count the number of beats in 15 seconds and then multiply this out by four to get an extrapolated number of beats in one minute. This is helpful because someone’s heart rate could drop over the course of a full minute, throwing off the results. For example, if someone counts 35 beats in a span of 15 seconds, this would equate to a heart rate of 140 beats per minute. Alternatively, a fitness tracker could take someone’s heart rate automatically.

There are a few common problems that people might have while performing the Rockport Walking Test. First, the stopwatch might not start and stop on-time. Therefore, it could be helpful to use two watches or have a second person perform the timing, allowing the individual to focus on walking.

Another common issue has to do with counting beats and performing the math. Try to count out loud to avoid losing track while looking at the watch for the timing. If someone loses his or her place while counting, restarting might not be a valid option since the heart rate starts to drop as soon as the test is done. This would mean the results are inaccurate. To avoid this problem, consider using a heart rate tracker.

How To Calculate Your VO2 Max

Once the test is finished, it is time to calculate your VO2 max. In order to perform this calculation, you will need to collect the following information

  • Your heart rate from the test that was just completed (in terms of beats per minute)
  • Your age in years
  • Your gender
  • How long it took you to complete the walking test (in terms of minutes with a decimal point representing the number of seconds)

Once you have all of this information, you are going to use the following formula to come up with your VO2 max. The formula is as follows:

VO2 max = 132.853 – (0.0769 x your weight in lbs) – (0.3877 x your age in years) + (6.315 if you are male. Ignore this addition if you are female) – (3.2649 x your walking time in minutes with a decimal for seconds) – (0.1565 x your heart rate in beats per minute at the conclusion of the test).

While the formula might look intimidating, it looks a lot easier once a calculation is performed. Let’s take the following values:

  • A 28-year-old man
  • Weighs 165 pounds
  • Finished the test in 12 minutes and 30 seconds, which is 12.5 minutes
  • With a heart rate at the end of the test that totaled 40 beats in 15 seconds, making this a BPM of 160

The calculations would be:

  • 132.853 – (0.0768 x 165 pounds) = 132.853 – 12.6885 = 120.1645
  • 120.1645 – (0.3877 x 28 years of age) = 109.3089
  • 109.3089 + (6.315 for a male) = 115.6239
  • 115.6239 – (3.2649 x 12.5 minutes) = 74.81265
  • 74.81265 – (0.1565 x 160 BPM) = 49.77265

Once this calculation is rounded to the first three digits, this equates to 49.8 mL/kg/min, which is how VO2 max is usually expressed.

Free Rockport Walking Test Fitness Calculator

If you don’t want to handle this math on your own, here is a helpful tool to help you quickly calculate your VO2 max.

Just take your heart rate, age, sex, gender, and walking time for the mile, then enter them here:

Find more Calculators

How To Grade Your Results

Most people do not look at their VO2 max on a regular basis, shey might not know what to do with this number. People can take their VO2 max and compare it to average values based on their gender. For example, one set of measurements includes:

Women VO2 max comparison:

  • Very poor physical fitness: VO2 max less than 23.6
  • Poor physical fitness: VO2 max between 23.6 and 28.9
  • Fair physical fitness: VO2 max between 29.0 and 232.9
  • Good physical fitness: VO2 max between 33.0 and 36.9
  • Excellent physical fitness: VO2 max between 37.0 and 41.0
  • Superior physical fitness: VO2 max greater than 41.0

Men VO2 max comparison:

  • Very poor physical fitness: VO2 max less than 33.0
  • Poor physical fitness: VO2 max between 33.0 and 36.4
  • Fair physical fitness: VO2 max between 36.5 and 42.4
  • Good physical fitness: VO2 max between 42.5 and 46.4
  • Excellent physical fitness: VO2 max between 46.5 and 52.4
  • Superior physical fitness: VO2 max greater than 52.5

Therefore, based on the example from above, the young man who ended up with a VO2 max of 49.8 would have a physical fitness level of excellent.

Now, you have your result, what should do with this information? The results of the Rockport Walk Test can be used to help either a doctor or a personal trainer come up with a fitness plan that is appropriate for someone’s exercise tolerance.

When someone is entering into a new exercise routine, it is important to push but also to push an appropriate amount. Expecting too much too soon could lead to serious injuries. The Rockport Walk Test can be used to help someone scale up their exercise routine in an appropriate manner.

Furthermore, the Rockport Test can also be used to help someone track their progress in terms of physical fitness. Every few months, someone can repeat the Rockport Walk Test to see if their VO2 max has changed. If their VO2 max goes up, this is a sign that their physical fitness is improving. Therefore, the Rockport Test has a variety of applications.

Final Thoughts on the Rockport Walking Test

For anyone who wants an objective and safe approach to exercise, the Rockport Test is a valuable tool. This is particularly helpful for individuals who might be out of shape or who have limitations on their physical capacity.

This walking test can provide individuals with a strong baseline for how they perform physically. Then, individuals can use the Rockport Test as an objective measuring step as they improve their fitness. A low VO2 max should not discourage someone from exercising. Instead, this test can provide a baseline from which people can improve.

And if you want to take that next step to improve your fitness levels, here is a simple walking plan that is designed to help you lose an average of 1-pound per week.

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