The walking test is a simple, safe and repeatable way to measure your VO2max, and to keep track of how your aerobic fitness is developing. Understanding your aerobic fitness level is the cornerstone of efficient training. This makes the walking test a valuable tool for anyone from occasional to regular trainers. The idea is to walk as far as you can in fifteen minutes - at a steady pace. This means faster than your usual, comfortable walking speed. In principle, the higher your walking speed and the lower your heart rate, the better your aerobic fitness.
How often should I take the test?
We recommended taking the test when starting a training program, and repeating the test every three months. However, there's no reason why you shouldn't take it more often if you wish.
The conditions before testing should be fairly similar each time. GPS (GNSS) is used to track your speed, therefore the test needs to be taken outdoors*. Take the test in flat terrain, track or road in a location that has an unobstructed view of the sky for optimal GPS (GNSS) performance. Avoid routes with traffic lights or other possible hindrances that might force you to stop or slow down. Tall buildings, tunnels, partially covered stadiums and trees can also affect accuracy. The test will fail If the GPS (GNSS) signal is lost for an extended amount of time.
*Pacer/Pacer Pro: By default, the test uses GPS to track your speed but you can also perform the test with a Polar Stride Sensor Bluetooth® Smart or a STRYD running power meter. In this case your speed is measured with the sensor and the test can also be performed indoors.
Preparing for the test
Before taking the test, read the Health and Training section in the user manual or in the Important information sheet that came in the product package. Do not take the test during illness, injury or if you have any doubts over your health. Avoid intense training sessions on the day before the test and avoid heavy meals right before testing. Also make sure your physical settings – including height, weight, age as well as which hand you wear your watch on – are up to date. We use them in calculating the result. In addition, if you know your HRmax, check that it’s also correct in your settings. It’s used for intensity guidance during the test but it doesn’t directly affect your test result.
Performing the test
The walking test including warmup and cool down phases takes about 25 minutes to perform. It's comprised of warmup (5 minutes), test (15 minutes) and cool down (5 minutes) phases. Have a look at the instructions on your watch in Tests > Walking test > How to once more before starting to see a detailed breakdown of the test, and instructions on performing it.
During the test, you should walk as fast as you can at a steady pace. Try to keep your heart rate above 65% of your maximum heart rate by walking at a fast, brisk pace. There’s no upper limit. The longer your walking distance, the better your result. Running is not allowed. Increasing your speed towards the end of the test is not beneficial. If you feel you have the resources to increase your speed at the end, take this into account in future tests by starting a little more intensively.
If you find it difficult to keep your heart rate above 65% of your maximum, try increasing your walking pace.
- Go to Tests > Walking test > Start, and scroll down to see an overview of the test. When you’re ready to start the test, choose Next.
- Check the questions concerning your health and accept to go to the pre-training mode.
- The walking sport profile is used for the test. It’s shown in a purple color in the test view. Stay in the pre-training mode until the watch has found your heart rate and the GPS satellite signals (GPS icon turns green).
- Get started with a proper warmup. Aim at raising your heart rate above 65% of your maximum heart rate by walking at a fast, brisk pace. Follow the guidance on the display to complete the warmup.
- When you've reached at least 65% of your maximum heart rate or warmed up for at least three minutes the test can be started. Choose Start test to start the actual test.
- Keep your heart rate above 65% of your maximum heart rate during the test.
- The test phase ends after 15 minutes. Pacer/Pacer Pro: Press the OK button to confirm and continue to the cool down phase. Ignite 3: Tap the display to confirm and continue to the cool down phase.
- Cool down by walking slowly to promote your recovery.
- After finishing the cool down you'll see the distance you walked on the display.
- Pacer/Pacer Pro: Press the BACK button once to pause your session, once paused press and hold the BACK button to end the session. Ignite 3: Press the button once to pause your session, once paused press and hold the button to end the session.
During the test
Your current heart rate and the heart rate value above which you need to stay is shown at the top of the display. At the bottom of the display you'll see the time elapsed.
- If your heart rate is too low (below 65% of your HRmax), the watch will alert you. This means you need to walk faster to raise your heart rate. The test can be completed even if you don’t reach 65% of your maximum heart rate, it will not cause the test to fail. However, the test result will be more reliable if your heart rate stays above the limit throughout the test.
- If your watch detects you are running it will alert you and ask you to stop running.
- If you stop during the test, the watch will alert you and remind you to keep walking. The test will fail if you stop for too long.
- The test summary shows your VO2max. The result is also classified based on gender and age group ranging from very low to elite. Your VO2max, result is based on the distance you walk, your heart rate during the test, and personal characteristics (age, sex, height and weight). In principle, the higher your walking speed or in other words the longer the distance you walked, and the lower your heart rate, the better your aerobic fitness.
- Test heart rate (your average heart rate from the last 5 minutes of the test)
- Test speed/pace (your average speed/pace during the test)
- Tips for next time (these tips are meant to enhance the repeatability of the test and they're only shown on your watch)
You can view your latest result on your watch in Tests > Walking test > Latest result.
Note that to update your VO2max value based on your test result you need to sync the results to the Flow app. When opening the Flow app after syncing you'll be asked if you want to update it.
Remember to sync your test result to Polar Flow. To help long-term follow up, we’ve gathered all the test data in one place in the Polar Flow web service. In the Tests page you can see all the tests you’ve performed and compare their results. You can see your long-term progress and easily view changes in your performance.