The what and how of Polar Fitness test

What is Fitness Test?

The Polar Fitness Test with wrist-based heart rate is an easy, safe and quick way to estimate your aerobic (cardiovascular) fitness at rest. It's a simple 5-minute fitness level assessment that gives you an estimate of your maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max). The Fitness Test calculation is based on your resting heart rate, heart rate variability and your personal information: gender, age, height, weight, and self-assessment of your physical activity level called the training background. The Polar Fitness Test is developed for use by healthy adults.

Aerobic fitness relates to how well your cardiovascular system works to transport oxygen to your body. The better your aerobic fitness, the stronger and more efficient your heart is. Good aerobic fitness has many health benefits. For example, it helps in decreasing the risk of high blood pressure and your risk of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. If you want to improve your aerobic fitness it takes, on average, six weeks of regular training to see a noticeable change in your fitness test result. Less fit individuals see progress even more rapidly. The better your aerobic fitness, the smaller the improvements in your result.

Aerobic fitness is best improved by training types that use large muscle groups. Such activities include running, cycling, walking, rowing, swimming, skating, and cross-country skiing. To monitor your progress, start by performing the test a couple of times during the first two weeks in order to get a baseline value, and then repeat the test approximately once a month.

How do I perform the test?

To make sure the test results are reliable, the following basic requirements apply:

  • You can perform the test anywhere - at home, at the office, at a health club - provided the testing environment is peaceful. There should be no disturbing noises (e.g. television, radio, or telephone) and no other people talking to you.
  • Always take the test in the same environment and at the same hour.
  • Avoid eating a heavy meal or smoking 2-3 hours prior to testing.
  • Avoid heavy physical exertion, alcohol, and pharmaceutical stimulants on the test day and the previous day.
  • You should be relaxed and calm. Lie down and relax for 1-3 minutes before starting the test.

Follow the links below to learn how to perform the test.

How to interpret the test results?

A clear link exists between maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) of the body and cardiorespiratory fitness because oxygen delivery to tissues is dependent on lung and heart function. VO2max (maximal oxygen uptake, maximal aerobic power) is the maximal rate at which oxygen can be used by the body during maximal exercise; it is related directly to the maximal capacity of the heart to deliver blood to the muscles. VO2max can be measured or predicted by fitness tests (e.g. maximal exercise tests, submaximal exercise tests, Polar Fitness Test). VO2max is a good index of cardiorespiratory fitness and a good predictor of performance capability in endurance events such as distance running, cycling, cross-country skiing, and swimming

VO2max can be expressed either as milliliters per minute (ml/min = ml ■ min-1) or this value can be divided by the person’s body weight in kilograms (ml/kg/min = ml ■ kg-1■ min-1).

Fitness level classes


Age / Years Very low Low Fair Moderate Good Very good Elite
20-24 < 32 32-37 38-43 44-50 51-56 57-62 > 62
25-29 < 31 31-35 36-42 43-48 49-53 54-59 > 59
30-34 < 29 29-34 35-40 41-45 46-51 52-56 > 56
35-39 < 28 28-32 33-38 39-43 44-48 49-54 > 54
40-44 < 26 26-31 32-35 36-41 42-46 47-51 > 51
45-49 < 25 25-29 30-34 35-39 40-43 44-48 > 48
50-54 < 24 24-27 28-32 33-36 37-41 42-46 > 46
55-59 < 22 22-26 27-30 31-34 35-39 40-43 > 43
60-65 < 21 21-24 25-28 29-32 33-36 37-40 > 40



Age / Years Very low Low Fair Moderate Good Very good Elite
20-24 < 27 27-31 32-36 37-41 42-46 47-51 > 51
25-29 < 26 26-30 31-35 36-40 41-44 45-49 > 49
30-34 < 25 25-29 30-33 34-37 38-42 43-46 > 46
35-39 < 24 24-27 28-31 32-35 36-40 41-44 > 44
40-44 < 22 22-25 26-29 30-33 34-37 38-41 > 41
45-49 < 21 21-23 24-27 28-31 32-35 36-38 > 38
50-54 < 19 19-22 23-25 26-29 30-32 33-36 > 36
55-59 < 18 18-20 21-23 24-27 28-30 31-33 > 33
60-65 < 16 16-18 19-21 22-24 25-27 28-30 > 30


The classification is based on a literature review of 62 studies where VO2max was measured directly in healthy adult subjects in the USA, Canada and 7 European countries. Reference: Shvartz E, Reibold RC. Aerobic fitness norms for males and females aged 6 to 75 years: a review. Aviat Space Environ Med; 61:3-11, 1990.

What if the Polar Fitness Test does not work?

If your wrist unit does not succeed to receive your heart rate at the beginning or during the test, the test will fail (Test failed shown on the display). 

  • If you are performing the fitness test with wrist-based heart rate, make sure that the heart rate sensor on the back of your wrist unit is in constant touch with your skin. 
  • If you are using a heart rate sensor, remember to moisten the electrodes of the strap and see that the strap is snug enough and clean.
  • Check that your wrist unit is inside the transmission range (being no further than 1 meter/3 feet for products using GymLink). The wrist unit should not be too near the heart rate sensor either, have your hands beside your body.
  • See that the heart symbol flashes regularly when you start the test or Heart rate found text is displayed at the beginning of the test.

The test has been developed for healthy adults aged 20-65 years. If your heart beat reading or 'Heart rate found' text is shown on the display before the test, but the test still fails, it may be caused by cardiac arrythmia. Certain types of cardiac arrythmia (many abnormal heart beat intervals) may cause failure of the test. These include e.g. atrial fibrillation or flutter, atrioventricular conduction block, and sinus arrythmia. 

Also healthy people may, however, have occasional cardiac arrythmia that leads to failure of the test. These situations are rare, and usually have to do with stress. It is advised to repeat the test when you are less stressed. Sometimes carrying the test out in a sitting position decreases the arrythmia and the test succeeds.

To get a reliable test result, remember to follow the basic instructions to carry out the Polar Fitness Test.

You can read more about the Polar Fitness test from the Polar Blog.

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